Vermont colleges growing cannabis education programs

Retail cannabis has only been legal in Vermont for a month, but the cannabis industry has been preparing for years. That includes a program in the Vermont State
Published: Nov. 2, 2022 at 6:24 AM EDT
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CASTLETON, Vt. (WCAX) - Retail cannabis has only been legal in Vermont for a month, but the cannabis industry has been preparing for years. That includes a program in the Vermont State College System.

NVU, Castleton, and Vermont Technical College offer a 12-credit cannabis studies program. It’s been around since 2019 and students receive a certificate for completing the course. The goal is to educate students from all over the country about every aspect of the cannabis industry, one that’s expected to boom in Vermont.

Chandler Volk, a Castleton senior who completed his certificate in cannabis studies in 2021, is now a budtender at the month-old Mountain Girl Cannabis in Rutland. “I think that earning an education in cannabis can be so valuable. It’ll put your foot in the door with jobs like mine. I’ve received so many opportunities from this program,” said Volk.

He’s one of roughly 40 students who have graduated from the program. Dr. Phil Lamy, the program’s founder and professor, says around half his former students are working in the industry right now. He says Students take courses on cannabis culture, canna-business, horticulture, and internships. Class settings are hybrid in-person and online. “Our program wasn’t just for the traditional college-aged students -- as popular as it has been for them,” Lamy said. “But we designed it to attract adult students, so non-traditional students. It’s been surprising to us we’ve had a number of high school students who have taken our courses and taken our program.”

Sebastian Diaz is from Maryland and studying at Northern Vermont University. He says classes are helping get his foot in the door and reduce the stigma around cannabis as a whole. “I want to try to learn as much as I can and apply as much as I can once I do get into the workforce because I --especially with these classes -- I see myself truly potentially making a big difference in the industry, especially in the moment that we’re at right now,” said Diaz.

New Hampshire state Rep. Tim Egan, a professor at NVU, says education is imperative in the industry, especially when there are specific rules for advertising, staffing, licensing, and financing. “If there are going to be businesses, those businesses are going to need qualified employees, well-trained employees, and could that be a unique pillar that the new Vermont State University could hang its hat on,” he said.

He says they hope the growing cannabis industry -- coupled with programs at VSU -- will attract people to the state. He says Massachusetts’s $3 billion cannabis industry has great potential for Vermont education programs.

Dr. Lamy says the state has contacted the college to tell them they’ll be encouraging business owners to participate in courses to help learn more skills and the college is expecting some applicants to sign up soon.

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