Partnering with Green Flower to Make a Difference in the Future

By: Jeff Nazzaro

With some degree of marijuana legalization in all but three states, and recreational use okayed in 17, most in the last few years, it’s little wonder the cannabis industry is among the fastest growing and best paying in the country. Alongside that exponential growth, the industry has also seen a rapid professionalization, sparked in large part by the efforts of Ventura-based training provider Green Flower, which offers online courses in Cannabis Healthcare and Medicine; Law and Policy; Business; and Agriculture and Horticulture. And with Green Flower’s partnership with UCR University Extension, those looking to break into or move up in the industry, or enhance their credentials in a different field, can earn stackable professional certificates in all four areas.

“…the industry has also seen a rapid professionalization, sparked in large part by Green Flower…”

“It’s been fantastic working with the UCR University Extension team,” said Green Flower’s Managing Director of University Partnerships, Nate Rowe. “It’s a unique partnership. Our other partners in the higher ed. space typically offer these programs in a non-credit format. When we started with UCR University Extension, we had two runs of the programs that were non-credit, and we went through the advisory board process, it was approved by the faculty senate, and the programs were then offered for UCR University Extension credit. It’s just been a great partnership overall.”

Through its Green Flower Institute (GFI) steering committee, the company has positioned itself as pioneers in establishing professional certification standards for the cannabis industry, according to Vice President of Higher Education Daniel Kalef, who noted that the industry is “still a little bit of the Wild West,” with currently no certifications or certifying boards.

“Our mission, regionally and nationally, is to get some standards in the industry that people have when they’re hiring, when they’re working, so we’re working with some other accrediting bodies in that respect,” Daniel said.

“Our mission is to get some standards in the industry…”

For now, students receive not only a UCR University Extension Professional Certificate for each of the four programs they complete, but also a digital badge, which maps out all skills learned.

“We have this employer network of that steering committee and more companies that can search for students based on the skills they’ve learned and for which they’re looking to hire folks, and I think the combination of the credential from the university and the digital badge from both the university and the GFI is really beginning to make a big difference in the industry. We hear again and again when we talk to employers, whether they have hired the people who have completed these programs or not, that coming in with a great knowledge base is how these people are not only getting jobs but keeping jobs and moving up. There are so many jobs available that you can get a job without these programs, but you’re probably not going to thrive, and you might not move up, and you might not stay there very long because you walk in with so little knowledge.”

Of the four programs, Daniel said the largest percentage of students take the business and agriculture courses, often stacking the two. In terms of Business, he said, there are jobs available across the spectrum, from accounting to human resources to finance, marketing, and sales. Another big area of opportunity within cannabis companies, still trying to navigate the young industry, is compliance, for which the Law and Policy program is also key.

“Of the course programs, the largest percentage of students take the business and agriculture sections…”

In Agriculture, there are positions available for everything from grow operation managers and cultivators to trimmers and packaging people. In Manufacturing, there are seemingly endless possibilities for extraction and infusion and creating different types of products.

“Every area of the industry is hiring and needs these types of people,” Daniel said.

Medical marijuana is how the industry got its legal start in the US, and it remains a huge component. While cannabis cannot be prescribed directly, doctors can prescribe medical marijuana cards that give patients access. This is especially important in states where medical, but not recreational, cannabis is legal, but that by no means tells the whole story.

“One of the reasons the Healthcare and Medicine Program is so valuable is that then it becomes a conversation between patient and physician or nurse or therapist as to what kind of things would really be beneficial to whatever you’re trying to solve for, whether it’s pain or inflammation or sleep deprivation or things like that,” Daniel said. “When people are in cancer treatment, there’s a lot of evidence that cannabis can be helpful in regaining your appetite when you’re in chemo. The doctor prescribes the card and then when they go to the dispensary, hopefully the people there know a little bit about what they’re talking about—which is part of our mission. If we can help educate the doctors and the nurses on how to talk to their patients, and we can help educate the people working in the retail centers to better know what things help what problems and what delivery methods are best, then we’ve really done our job.”

“If we can help educate the doctors and the nurses on how to talk to their patients, and we can help educate the people working in the retail centers…then we have done our jobs…”

This seems especially important for an industry still trying to fully overcome the stigmatization that stems from decades of illegality. Daniel noted how, despite several years of legal status in California, you can’t open a dispensary in Ventura, where Green Leaf is headquartered. When they first put their sign up, in fact, they were raided by law enforcement, who thought it was an illicit retail shop. Partnerships with institutions like UCR University Extension are a big step towards wider societal acceptance.

“…the more programs like this that are out there, the more the stigma comes down…”

“Part of our desire when we decided to partner with universities is people trust and like to take programs from universities in their area, but I think the more programs like this are out there, the more the stigma comes down,” Daniel said. “Even in the state of California, which has been legal for so long, I think there’s still some stigma attached, and I think it’s getting better and better every day, honestly. Compared to three years ago, it’s night and day, and we hope that continued legalization and better education will continue to help that go away.”