Kent State University is breaking into cannabis education, and courses begin as soon as next month.
To do this, KSU is partnering with Green Flower, an online education platform founded in 2014 in Ventura, California, by CEO Max Simon.
“Education has been my background. But I’ve also been using cannabis medicinally my whole life. In 2014, I was helping people build online education businesses and felt like I wanted to build something on my own again,” Simon explains. “My thinking was, this is going to be a huge industry, it’s going to need a lot of well-trained people, and I have the perfect background from an educational and cannabis standpoint to play that role.”
KSU will offer certificate programs in fully online and asynchronous formats in four key areas: business; health care; compliance; and agriculture. Registration is open now, with classes beginning in January.
Each program is open to the public, costs $2,950 and takes about six months to complete, according to Green Flower. It will split those proceeds with the school.
Green Flower has been on a growth spurt since raising $20 million in startup capital in 2019, which has helped enable it to develop training programs and secure partnerships.
Since then, Simon said the platform has grown from one college/university partnership to 50 across 22 states. Simon’s goal is to grow Green Flower’s partnership network to 100 by 2027.
KSU is the first higher ed institution in Ohio to work with Green Flower, and it will be the only one for at least some time. KSU spokesman Eric Mansfield said the startup has a three-year contract with the university that requires Green Flower to work with it as its exclusive partner in the state.
The school will independently track progress and student outcomes with the Green Flower programs as it determines whether to reassess or renew its partnership in the future.
This foray into cannabis education ties in with KSU’s Lifelong Learning Initiative.
Mansfield said KSU officials had been vetting Green Flower for “several months” intending to ink a partnership if voters passed Issue 2, Ohio’s adult-use marijuana referendum.
“It aligns with our goal to deliver high-caliber educational experiences and create access and benefits that our students are looking for who want to put themselves in that industry,” Mansfield said.
“This is an important opportunity for Kent State University to collaborate with a recognized private education provider for training related to the emerging cannabis industry,” said Peggy Shadduck, KSU’s vice president for regional campuses and dean of the College of Applied and Technical Studies, in a statement.
While a relatively young company, Green Flower was named cannabis training/education services provider of the year at the 2023 EMJAY Awards during the annual MJBiz Conference in Las Vegas.
As of Nov. 9, there were 7,081 employees working in state-licensed marijuana companies in Ohio, according to regulators. Since the beginning of the year, that workforce has grown by less than 2%.
However, the expectation is the current cannabis workforce will need to expand from there as Ohio transitions from a medical-only state to include adult-use. Many cultivators and product manufacturers will want to expand operations, new dispensaries will come online, and the potential consumer base will expand significantly.
All these elements point to a need for additional jobs.
“With the recent legalization in Ohio, it is important for individuals to become well-informed. These on-demand, online certificate programs will enable individuals to develop specialized knowledge and skills related to the cannabis industry at their own pace,” Shadduck added. “Trained professionals are needed to fill the jobs that are being created now and that will be created in the future. Individuals with a variety of backgrounds can learn technical skills as well as how to apply ethical business practices and quality standards to the emerging cannabis industry.”
Mansfield could not speak to whether KSU considered partnering with Northeast Ohio’s own Cleveland School of Cannabis for these programs, but Simon had a take on that—which he prefaced by emphasizing that he “loves the CSC group” and believes they “do good work.”
“(CSC) are their own school, and we are not,” Simon said. “The reason universities partner with us is we are a turnkey system that allows schools to offer their own cannabis programs.”
Simon said Green Flower has awarded more than 5,000 certificates to date. Completion rates hover around 85%.
As far as employment rates for Green Flower grads, Simon said his company is working on collecting better data there.
He notes that not all Green Flower students are singularly motivated by joining the cannabis industry as some tend to include healthcare professionals looking to learn more about the plant and enthusiasts interested in learning how to grow plants at home, for example.
“We don’t get as much data from the students after they finish the program as I expected us to,” Simon said. “So we don’t have very comprehensive data on what people do with these after they’re finished. But that is a core goal in 2024, to figure out new and creative ways to get students to tell us what they do.”