Getting Schooled – Legitimately

Cannabis Industry Education Making Mainstream Strides!

It’s been almost two years since cannabis supporters voted to legalize the industry in California. A LOT has changed in that time, to say the least. Did you ever think you’d see the day when cannabis “education” was a thing? And we’re not talking about sitting around with your friends talking about preferred strains for different ailments or the best strain for getting lifted before a movie or something. We are talking legitimate education, the kind you get with accredited program. Yes, accredited. As in, at the same level as a college or university that gives out certificates and degrees, and well, you get the idea.

As the industry gains momentum, the demand for cannabis vocational training is growing (pun intended). More and more cannabis companies are looking for formally trained professionals. Naturally, this growth creates a catch 22 for most educators who want to meet this demand…and raises questions across the board – for job seekers, students, and consumers, alike.

Where Do We Go from Here?

The federally illegal status of cannabis means limited resources for mainstream, accredited education. At this point, only federally funded educators can create accredited programming. Most institutions that currently offer cannabis education are not accredited. This begs several other questions. Why do cannabis educational programs need to be accredited? What benefits do you get from attending an accredited institution compared to an unaccredited one? Will it really make a difference for anyone working in the industry now? What about two or five years from now? And what does regimented education mean for consumers and for the quality of products on the market?

Why Does Accreditation Matter?

The industry is maturing. Crucial best business practices and industry standards are developing. Education is following the industry closely and facilitating many of the standards. Like any credible industry, cannabis will also evolve into one that is driven by standardized criteria. It’s a natural progression.

Transferable skills and degrees are helpful when you’re seeking to enter the cannabis industry. The time is coming, though, when having a degree or certification from cannabis focused institutional programs will set candidates apart from the others. In other words, as the industry evolves, so will the job requirements and education, and training from an accredited institution will become more important. A lot of employers are already looking for candidates with a degree and consider accreditation when deciding to hire an applicant. Many professional certification boards won’t allow students from unaccredited schools to sit for licensing exams.

What is Accreditation?

Accreditation is the process an educational institution goes through the ensure its accountability as a viable institution. The process determines if that institution meets and/or exceeds quality standards defined by the accrediting body. Accreditation is the measuring stick used among higher learning institutions to evaluate one another. The accreditation process and the accrediting body offer assurance to students and stakeholders. It means the institution has set common standards of excellence and strategic goals to which they believe all schools should adhere.

How Will Education Standards Affect Products and Consumers?

Standardized and accredited education will mean increasingly regimented requirements for the industry, across the board. For consumers, that will mean – or should translate to – increased confidence in everything from the products you purchase to the licensed dispensaries you visit to the budtenders you ask for advice and information.

Bear with us… The industry changes on the daily. And for a plant that was once pharmaceutically and mainstream medically recognized as legitimate medicine, we have come a long way, but have a long way to go.

What Does Accreditation Actually Mean?

College accreditation guarantees students that the institution maintains goals and standards recognized as important to the quality of education it delivers. An accrediting board oversees the institution to ensure it maintains those goals. One thing to consider in cannabis education is that a school’s accreditation affects whether you can get Federal (Title V) and state financial aid. It also ensures that another college will accept your credits if you transfer schools.

Because cannabis is still federally illegal, even accredited education programs are not eligible for financial aid. Until cannabis is federally legalized, students must be prepared to foot the bill themselves. Students should look for an accredited institution that will work with them on their tuition and take advantage of any tuition assistance offered by their employer.

What Are The Types of Accreditation?

There are two basic types of accreditation: institutional and special OR program accreditation. Institutional accreditation is the most common. It applies to the institution, as a whole. So, it creates standards and credibility for the entire institution as opposed to just a program. If you’re looking into an educational program, consider if it provides the educational degree or certification you need. If so, does the accredited program have standards that set it apart from programs/schools that do not have accreditation?

The United States is divided into six regions and has six national and regional accreditations for cannabis:

  1. Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools
  2. New England Association of Schools and Colleges
  3. North Central Association of Colleges and Schools
  4. Northwest association of Schools and Colleges
  5. Southern Association of Colleges and Schools
  6. Western Association of Schools and Colleges

Although the institution may be accredited in its place of origin, its accreditation is national. It may even be global, as in online programs.

If you’re looking to enter the industry and looking at educational options, consider and understand why accreditation matters. Decide what your end game is and how far you and where plan to go in your career. Of course, once cannabis is federally legal, the playing field will broaden. Institutions that can now offer federally funded programs will have that much more to offer. Until then, stick to institutions that have a solid history for delivering quality educational programs. Always go with an accredited institution, if possible. Students in this rapidly growing industry deserve a reliable source for their educational needs. Time and money spent should always produce the desired future outcomes.

Dr. Robin Goins



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