Want to work in Missouri’s marijuana industry? KC community college has 3 new classes

Metropolitan Communication College launched three new online classes this week to help jump-start careers in Missouri’s burgeoning marijuana industry.

MCC is partnering with California-based company Green Flower to offer the three certificate programs that focus on different aspects of the industry: cannabis cultivation specialist, cannabis retail specialist and cannabis extraction & product development specialist.

According to Daniel Kalef, Green Flower’s executive vice president, the cultivation specialist program is geared toward those who want to work in a grow operation. It covers, for example, the genetics and botany of the cannabis plant, as well as seeds, germination, soil, watering, lighting, trimming and harvesting.

Kalef said the retail specialist program is for those who want to work in a dispensary, where a sometimes amazing, though dizzying, array of products are offered, “from something you could smoke to something you can vape to oils and tinctures and candy and drinks and gummies and chocolate.” The program covers topics like the relationship between the cannabis plant and human biology, how different products are made, proper dosing and customer service.

The extraction and product development program looks at how “you take a plant and extract what you need from it and turn it into a product,” Kalef said. It covers how to extract THC from cannabis plants and how to properly infuse different products like oils, chocolates and gummies, for example, with THC.

Each nine-week program costs $750. The courses are not for credit, and anyone can sign up to take them at their own pace.

Cannabis plants flourish under the grow lights at Illicit Gardens, a large cultivator of medical marijuana in the Kansas City area.
Cannabis plants flourish under the grow lights at Illicit Gardens, a large cultivator of medical marijuana in the Kansas City area.

Training for a growing industry

Green Flower, which offers its programs at 19 community colleges and 20 four-year universities, approached MCC in August last year ahead of Missouri’s vote to legalize recreational marijuana, said Richard Wallace, MCC’s Director of Continuing Education.

After looking at marijuana sales and job income data from states where weed was legal, Wallace said, “We were able to see that this is something that we might need to, kind of, get ahead of and start offering some of these programs.”

St. Louis Community College has also been paying attention to the expanding cannabis industry.

“We just knew from talking with individuals in the cannabis industry that there was going to be a real growing need for workers in that industry,” said Jerry Pence, the college’s horticulture program coordinator.

STLCC now offers three in-person cannabis courses for credit: an introductory lecture, a cultivation course on growing techniques with a lab component, and lab methods course on extraction techniques. The courses, which have space for 24-30 students, have all filled when they have been offered.

Patrick Vogan, an assistant professor in the horticulture program who co-taught STLCC’s cultivation course this spring with a manager of a local cannabis cultivation facility, said the classes can serve a variety of people.

“There’s a whole range of student knowledge levels coming in,” Vogan said. “About a quarter of the students in the class were already working in the industry and were looking for ways to refine and add to their skill sets, whereas many of the other students had no experience cultivating cannabis.”

“Students just want a good practical knowledge that will help get them employed in the industry,” Vogan added.

MCC is the first Kansas City-area college to offer cannabis education and is excited about the new offering, Wallace said in a news release. The college “has identified the need and the demand in high-growth opportunities in the cannabis job market.”

Recreational weed has been available for sale in Missouri since February, and data from the state’s Department of Health and Senior Services through the end of June shows recreational sales totaled $444 million, and medical sales totaled $185.3 million.

As of June, more than 16,271 active “agent” licenses were registered in Missouri for those who work in the state’s marijuana industry.