The Business of Cannabis: Sustainability from Seed to Sale – our role as Evaluators for NCCC

  • January 18, 2024

In 2022, it was announced that the state of New York would provide SUNY and CUNY community colleges $5MM in funding to support “the creation or enhancement of short-term credential programs or course offerings that provide pathways to employment in the cannabis industry.” The New York State Department of Labor’s Cannabis Employment and Education Development (CEED) was granted in part to Niagara County Community College for their program The Business of Cannabis: Sustainability from Seed to Sale. We are thrilled to be the named evaluator in this project and to document the progress and positive impacts NCCC is making in policy directives, community outreach, and workforce development in an industry that is expected to reach USD 7.07 billion by 2025 and exhibit a CAGR of 14.7% over the forecast period, according to a new report by Grand View Research, Inc.

The project’s main objective is to provide equal access to students who face barriers to entering the cannabis industry. This includes students with prior cannabis-related convictions, their family members, and those from low-income communities. Through partnerships and funding, NCCC and its higher education consortium plan to bring cannabis workforce programs to underrepresented communities and offer opportunities to those who can benefit the most.

The Business of Cannabis: Sustainability from Seed to Sale Programming

While some of the initial grant dollars were used for student scholarships and equipment to enable programming, the most exciting aspect of NCCC’s programming is arguably the creation of new and modification of existing college courses to create an industry pathway for tomorrow’s workforce in the growth, production, and sale of this agricultural product.

New and modified cannabis courses

A total of 5 new courses were created in 2022, plus 3 additional new courses created in 2023. These include Intro to the Biotechnology of Cannabis Science, Medical Application of Cannabis, Production of Cannabis Products 1 & 2, A culinary cannabis track including Culinary Medicine 1 & 2, and Cooking with Cannabis/CBD. Students can also pursue an AAS in Horticulture, which includes up to 15 credit hours of electives in cannabis-related coursework offered as a concentration component of the degree. Workforce Development courses include Cannabis Production, Medical Applications of Cannabis, and Cannabis: Society, Policies, and Compliance. NCCC also developed a four-hour pre-licensing micro-credential course, which includes credit-for-prior-learning opportunities to allow ease in matriculation to degree programs. NCCC is working toward the design of an AOS in Horticulture with Cannabis as a concentration offering by the Fall of 2025, while partner institution SUNY has been approved to add a for-credit cannabis certification by the Fall of 2024. With a host of innovative career opportunities for those who choose to become a certified executive chef in the CBD/Cannabis industry, it is of note that NCCC is among only a handful of institutions to offer this credential nationwide. The head of the culinary institute at NCCC is currently certified. Marketing and Legal industry careers are expected to grow as well, and NCCC has included coursework to pursue degrees and certificates in these industries through a cannabis industry lens.

Our Role

E.B. Howard Consulting is the named Evaluator for NCCC’s project. This means we have had the opportunity to help write program goals and objectives and measure the outcomes of each. We coach the NCCC team on data collection best practices and turn their raw data into fully analyzed reports that enable them to see a summary of the program’s impact in an easily digestible form. We also get to help NCCC draft interim, midterm, and final reports for the program annually.

We have been fortunate enough to be invited to the annual SUNY Cannabis Conference for several years. The 2024 conference took place January 8 – 9 and was a great success, with sold-out attendance from cannabis program students, the area industry, and the local community. A total of 22 external vendors attended the event. The conference included Dr. Laszlo Mechtler, MD as the keynote speaker, several panel discussions, and a culinary cannabis demo. Conference feedback was overwhelmingly positive, with attendees rating it a 9/10 on average. Planning is underway to expand the conference at NCCC for next year. It has been an exciting process to watch this progressive endeavor unfold into a successful and well-received college pathway to career success.

Unfortunate Obstacles

Those reading this may be wondering why there isn’t more news of programs like these being developed across the country. We have witnessed first-hand the harmful effect that the potential stigma surrounding this crop has on people’s willingness to participate. Simultaneously being equal parts scientifically verified medical therapeutic, legal crop to grow/sell/study at a state level, yet federally recognized as a Schedule I substance under the Controlled Substances Act has led to cannabis being exiled to an uncomfortable category as an agricultural product. While the State of New York recognizes Cannabis as fully legal, the crop’s federal designation leads many researchers, educators, evaluators, public officials, and potential students to avoid association. This is an unfortunate reality as all studies indicate that Cannabis is a beneficial addition to the economy and the national workforce – not to mention your medicine cabinet. Until federal legislation is able to erase this stigma, expect to hear little about innovative programs such as NCCC’s. At E.B. Howard Consulting, however, we are as proud as we are honored to play a role in NCCC’s The Business of Cannabis: Sustainability from Seed to Sale, and we want everyone to know it!

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