Legal retail sales of recreational marijuana are expected to begin...

Legal retail sales of recreational marijuana are expected to begin in New York late next year. Credit: Bloomberg/David Paul Morris

Farmingdale State College has created a new certificate program to help its students capitalize on New York’s recent legalization of marijuana for adult use.

The 24-credit online certificate in cannabis production and management includes courses across business, economics, health care and horticulture. The goal is to prepare students to work as dispensary managers, sales representatives and retail "budtenders." Budtenders help customers understand the store’s products and meet their preferences.

"This is an area where there is a need for skilled people," said Richard Vogel, dean of Farmingdale State’s School of Business. "If the experience from other states is any indication, there will be a need for knowledgeable people working in these dispensaries to tell clients about the product and its potential effects and there will also be a need on the production side."

The demand for a cannabis workforce in New York became more urgent March 31 when New York became the 16th state to legalize cannabis use for adults age 21 and older. The state has set up an Office of Cannabis Management to oversee the rollout, and retail sales aren’t expected to begin until at least September 2022.

7,300 jobs

The state Department of Health projected the market for cannabis could range from $1.7 billion to $3.5 billion, generating about $350 million in sales taxes. An industry of that size would employ 30,700 people statewide, according to an analysis by the Rockefeller Institute of Government in Albany. The Long Island Association estimated earlier this year that the cannabis industry could employ about 7,300 people locally.

Farmingdale State’s program will be offered for credit that could be used to earn a bachelor’s degree in horticulture or business. The 24 credits would cost in-state students about $8,800 including tuition and fees.

As of last week, 17 students had applied for the program and five had been accepted, said Richard Beatty, director of enrollment planning. "Admissions is still accepting applications for the fall ... so the numbers will change by the start of class," he said.

Richard Vogel, dean of the School of Business at Farmingdale...

Richard Vogel, dean of the School of Business at Farmingdale State. Credit: Barry Sloan

Dozens of colleges and universities around the country have created courses and degrees to train students for work in states where cannabis is legal for adult use. Many of these programs are targeted toward non-matriculating students who are seeking a career change. Syracuse University announced in April it would offer online, noncredit certificates covering cannabis as part of University College, which offers continuing education and professional studies programs.

Syracuse is offering the program through Green Flower, a cannabis education company based in Ventura, Calif.

"While there's an enormous amount of enthusiasm, there's a shortage of people that actually understand this highly regulated, very complex business," said Max Simon, Green Flower’s co-founder and CEO. "People that are getting this level of training are put in a much more advantageous position to be hired."

Other local programs

Other local universities have begun to add courses on cannabis. Hofstra University’s Maurice A. Deane School of Law offers a business and law of marijuana class, and this summer Stony Brook University offered a course on cannabis history, culture, science and medicinal uses for the second time. The course is taught by Dale Deutsch, who has conducted cannabis research for more than 30 years, and Joanne Souza, the director of Stony Brook’s Biology Online program. Souza said this summer’s class had about 40 students with varying interests spanning medicine, law and the business of marijuana.

New York state’s implementation of the new law aims to promote social equity with the goal of awarding half of cannabis licenses to minority- and women-owned businesses, distressed farmers and service-disabled veterans.

PharmaCann, a Chicago-based company that runs four medical dispensaries in New York is collaborating with Orange County Community College in the Hudson Valley. It hopes to promote the industry to students from areas that were disproportionately affected by arrests for marijuana possession in the past, said Jeremy Unruh, PharmaCann’s senior vice president of public and regulatory affairs.

"We would love to build pipelines from these communities into our industry," he said. "We feel the way to do that is to empower community colleges in this training."

Cannabis Production and Management Certificate

The Farmingdale State program opens this fall.

Expected employment outcomes

•Dispensary manager

•Retail budtender

•Crop cultivation technician

•Marketing assistant

•Business manager

•Sales representative

•Wellness guide


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