By Paul Schneider
Talk to people in the marijuana industry and they’ll all tell you the same basic thing: the industry is far-reaching and varied with regards to information, innovation, development and research. Furthermore, the business of medicinal cannabis is still very much in its infancy, and there’s a tremendous amount of potential with seemingly unlimited room to grow.
To that end, a Washington state-based company has emerged to help educate and guide dispensaries, caregivers and other professionals through the ins and outs of the business of marijuana.
Started by a former Citibank executive, the Cannabis Training Institute was established with the goal of becoming the industry’s go-to place for online education. Since its launch in November 2013, the brainchild of Greta Carter and others has served over 2,000 students with compliance, certification, training and business education.
“The idea came from the lack of education that we saw in the cannabis industry,” said Silvia Orizaba, a nutritionist and physical therapy assistant with a background in kinesiology and one of CTI’s founders. Orizaba has been involved in the cannabis industry since 2008 and has worked in various capacities. “So we wanted to provide information to help businesses become more compliant [with state regulations] and to help other students get jobs in the industry.”
The curriculum was developed in association with Americans for Safe Access, which has more than 12 years of experience educating, writing and lobbying on cannabis as a non-profit.
Online courses include “Cultivation and Processing Standards,” “Manufacturing and Operations Standards,” “Laboratory Standards,” “Business Plan Writing” and “Robbery Awareness,” among others.
“The states like Washington and Nevada, they don’t offer education, and they realize that the employees have to become educated,” said Orizaba. “The states want to know what kind of training the employees have, so we provide the training.”
Or, as Luc Nelson, Director of Business Development, succinctly put it, “Finding good knowledge is hard to find. Information is changing all the time.”
Students who have gone through the program include employees who work in the dispensaries, as well as pharmacists, managers and store owners, who learn about the medicinal qualities of the various strains of marijuana, how to most efficiently own and operate a dispensary while staying compliant and how to break into the industry for entrepreneurs who might be interested.
“Pharmacists have to be knowledgeable in the way that patients have to be able to use the medication,” Orizaba said. “You, know, marijuana isn’t just something that you can smoke. You can also use it as an edible or as a vaporizer, so pharmacists and other caregivers have to know how to administer the drug [in those ways]. So with something like glaucoma, for example, the patients obviously have know how to use any of the various strains.”
Within the next month, one of the courses CTI expects to offer is entitled “Dispensary Technician.” Both Nelson and Orizaba said that with information changing as quickly as it does, and with more and more scientific information being released seemingly every week, it’s not enough for a dispensary tech to simply point to a shelf and say, “This is what you need.” They have to able to to explain a particular drug’s properties and side effects.
The Institute plans to offer additional online courses in pharmaceutical education, substance abuse and Cannabis 101 for those interested in entering the industry, or others who are just interested in cannabis and how it can be used as an alternative form of treatment.