St. Cloud State offering online certificate in cannabis education

Published: Aug. 30, 2023 at 3:29 PM CDT
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ST. CLOUD, Minn. (WCCO) - Those eager to cash in on a budding marijuana industry in Minnesota or cultivate plants of their own can turn to St. Cloud State University this fall to learn how.

The university is the first state school to offer such classes, which are part of a 24-week, non-credit certificate program. It’s a partnership with California-based cannabis training company, Green Flower, which will have industry experts as instructors.

There are four topics students can study: Cannabis Agriculture and Horticulture, Cannabis Compliance and Risk Management, Business of Cannabis and Cannabis Healthcare and Medicine. Those enrolled can learn at their own pace with fully online classes, which take six months to complete.

The move by St. Cloud State follows the legalization of recreational marijuana effective Aug. 1, thanks to a new law approved by the state legislature this year.

Minnesotans can now lawfully grow plants at home, but it will take longer to set up the regulatory framework for new cannabis businesses so they can be licensed and operate under the purview of a new state cannabis office. State officials don’t expect retail dispensaries until early 2025.

“When we knew that the law was going to be passed and signed by the governor — we heard about that in the spring — we thought to ourselves how can we be innovative?” said Abram Hedtke, executive director of Professional and Continuing Education or PACE, which oversees the new program. “What bold approach can we take to help offer not just to the St. Cloud community, but really to the entire state, an opportunity to really advance themselves in the cannabis industry.”

Hedtke said interest and enrollment surpassed expectations, especially since it was announced just last week. A couple of dozen people are taking classes starting Sept. 11 and another cohort will begin Nov. 8. Cannabis Agriculture and Horticulture, which focuses on the study of the plant itself, is the most popular.

The goal is to offer new programs every eight weeks so people can join when it fits their schedule. The fee is $2,950 and students must be over 18.

“If you’re looking to get into this industry, you have that certificate to prove what you’ve learned and the skills you’ve gained. If you’re already in the industry, this is going to help you advance even further,” he said in an interview with WCCO.

In a news release announcing the certificate last week, St. Cloud State President Robbyn Wacker said the goal is to meet workforce demand in a fledging industry that could top $1 billion in Minnesota over the next few years, according to one estimate.

“The cannabis industry is growing at an unprecedented rate and the demand for skilled professionals is higher than ever,” Wacker said.

Some businesses are already offering guidance about home-growing plants. There are also classes at the Minnesota Cannabis College, a nonprofit in Brooklyn Center with course offerings like “Cannabis Cultivation” and “Introduction to Budtending in MN.”

Tanner Berris, the group’s president, in an interview with WCCO this month described the mission as helping people “with a passion to become part of the cannabis industry to get them the education and the tools they need to be successful in it.”