I got an online degree in cannabis. This is what I learned.

After living in Israel and parts of Europe for the past five years, life finally caught up with me and to my surprise, I found myself craving the American lifestyle once more.

Spending that much time abroad gave me a chance to take a big step back and experience, well, everything. From waiting tables at an American dive bar right on a popular Tel Aviv beach to working at an international branding agency and even a (failed) startup, I certainly got my taste of what “adulting” meant abroad.

With this move stateside, though, I had to consider my next career move. Communications was always an interest of mine, but with such a big change in my environment, I had to take an even bigger step back to decide what I really wanted to accomplish in my American life 2.0.

So, as twenty-something’s sometimes do, I found myself back at my parents house living the way I did ten years prior. No job, no car and no real idea of what I would do next.

Although one thing had changed at home. My dad, a retired baby boomer turned amateur golfer and long-time sufferer of chronic, systemic pain in his joints, feet, gut, head (you name it), decided to help out his confused daughter with a bit of the good stuff. A nice, soothing CBD vape pen to chill a girl out.

Now, I was no stranger to cannabis. In fact, I am quite the enthusiast and it was even great to see my dad using something that helped with his chronic pain, but I think it was that fact that I was lighting up in my childhood home that just felt damn near euphoric. Times really have a’ changed since I’d been gone.

Then the chimes started to ring. I was coming to the conclusion that there was a new path I could take. And it just so happened to be legalized in 32 states (and counting). My mind wandered from the tingly feeling given off by the sativa-dominant hybrid to the wonders of Google.

How could I build a career on my passion for cannabis?

 

Enlightened possibilities

I needed to understand what a real, legal career in cannabis meant for me. I was an enthusiast and a supporter of the cause, but what were the legalities of this rapidly blossoming market and what jobs could I really get? Would I basically spend time cooped up in a grow all day, or were there other legit ways to apply my passion and my college education, too?

I wanted some skin in the game. I wanted to master this ever-changing, increasingly legal world that I had always followed from afar. But beyond Wikipedia and Leafly, how could I understand all of the aspects of the cannabis industry, or from seed to sale as the government so thoughtfully puts it?

Through some research, I found a few brick and mortar universities (Oaksterdam) that offered classes on growing, extractions, etc. and a range of courses that were offered online (like Cannabis Training Institute), but based on the value, depth and breadth of information, and access to information at my own pace, Cannabis Training University won by a landslide.

For a discounted price of $249, I was able to gain access to seven different course chapters which culminated in a final Mastery Exam. Each chapter focused on a different area of the cannabis industry: growing, cooking, medical applications, laws and regulations, budtending and business management.

 

Back to (cannabis) school

I’ll be honest, I’ve never been in love with learning. I always got good grades, but never because I enjoyed the reading material or was actually interested in our founding fathers (although looking back wish I had remembered a few things for Hamilton).

Contrastly, when it came to cannabis… I ate it up like buffet food after consuming an edible. That shit was interesting.

I started the course in my downstairs basement with cup of coffee in hand, my laptop and a notepad for jotting down anything I found important or interesting. From the first few videos I watched, I realized that despite the lackluster graphic design and rasta beats playing softly in the background, this information was legit and there was a lot of it.

I was going to need a bigger notebook.

Each of the seven chapters were filled with videos ranging in length from 5 to 30 minutes, outlining the basic and not-so-basic processes of cooking with and growing the plant, along with the rules and regs and facts all relating to cannabis. In addition to the videos, e-books were provided in each chapter. Some were short and filled with additional information that may or may not have been repeated in the videos, while others expanded upon detailed descriptions of things like terpenes, their effects, related smell profiles and even their carbon makeup. Think you’re the master of dabs? There was an entire e-book provided complete with a dab dictionary of all of the terms anyone would ever need to know about the concentrate revolution.

 

What I really learned

From one chapter to the next, I began to get a fuller picture of the industry. And while one did need to actively think and piece together information to create that picture, I believe I learned much more than what I could from searching the internet.

After learning about the body’s own endocannabinoid system and which of the body’s receptors responds to which cannabinoid and the part of the body it affects, I was better able to understand why a certain strain would affect you in different ways. And after learning about the different techniques growers use to train marijuana plants to create a higher yield, I was able to appreciate the process and understand different timelines for growth across different strains and phenotypes.

The array of information provided was what surprised me the most. I now have the resources to make cannabutter from a crockpot and know what gender a cannabis plant is during its early flowering stage. I know what countries are still in the process of decriminalizing weed and which are already fully legal (Uruguay), and how much it really costs to set up a dispensary on your own.

In my opinion, budtending was the most interesting chapter. I learned that the job is essentially like that of a bartender; a good budtender is someone who can talk to people, move product, and know their shit. It’s about communicating and educating both experienced and novice users on how to use the incredibly wide variety of ways to get high (or not) depending on their needs. It was this kind of information that I was looking to be exposed to, and for that, I was happy I had taken the $250 plunge.

Overall, some of the information was basic and things I already knew, some of it was important to anyone going into the cannabis industry, while some was so detailed that I wouldn’t have even thought to look up. Whether I really need to know that 11-Hydroxy-THC is by-product that the liver processes THC into when eating cannabis edibles is still to be determined, but knowledge is power, and if there is anything this industry needs, it’s professionals willing to go the extra mile to grow, sell and market cannabis in way that moves the industry forward, positively and safely.

 

Just like college, online cannabis classes won’t teach you everything.

While I felt the course served its purpose as a deep and expansive intro into the marijuana world, I did feel the need to supplement the courses with additional web searches, podcasts and reading.

I started with the book, Big Weed by the founder of Green Man Cannabis from Denver, Colorado. It takes a deep dive into the hardships and successes of one of the first dispensary owners in Colorado with a true vision for what cannabis could become. All in all, it was a fun read with a ton of information that didn’t actually feel like information.

I’ve also found that Cannabis Industry Voice podcast has a ton of great topics covered surrounding the legal and business aspects of the industry. It’s put on by the NCIA so it’s coming straight from a reliable source and I continue to be impressed by the content.

Of course, awesome blogs like HeyHelloHigh are great cultural resources for those women out there that don’t want to feel alone in their love and support for the world of cannabis. If the industry is going to grow in the positive and influential way that I hope it does, blogs like these are going to make all the difference.

 

A final word on going cannabis school

My Certificate of Completion at Cannabis Training University may not weigh as heavy as my state school degree, but it does show this:

  • While it’s not necessarily accredited, it is well known source in the cannabis industry, as they’ve even partnered with the famous Ed Rosenthal and provided much of his materials in their course syllabus.
  • If you’re looking to get your first gig in the industry, this is a great place to start. You get an understanding of different positions and can help find out where you and your professional experience fits in.
  • If anything, you might just find it super interesting like I did. Weed is an incredible plant with so much more to learn and understand. We’ve only been able to scratch the surface of its benefits, and the better base you have now, the better off you’ll be when things really start to heat up.

I’m just at the start of my journey and maybe you are too. Maybe you’re trying to figure out where you fit into this dynamic and rapidly growing industry like me. And I might not have all of the answers yet, but I can say that knowledge is a weapon that everyone should have in their arsenal. That being said, getting your cannabis degree is just the start. After graduation, it’s up to you (and me) to find our fit.

Want to chat more and share tips? Or maybe you’re looking to hire a spunky, smart and motivated gal like me. Visit my website and let’s get some sh*t done.

About the Author:

Danielle is an international branding and marketing professional who moved to Los Angeles after living and working abroad in Tel Aviv, Israel. She has contributed her social media, content creation and client service know-how to companies large and small, from ConAgra brands to an Israeli startup social video app and an international boutique branding agency. Following this article, she plans to find a position in LA where she can utilize her cannabis certification and professional experience to make a positive difference in the cannabis industry. Follow her on Instagram and check out her website to connect.

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