At New School, Students Learn Ins and Out of the Cannabis Business
In March 2021, Brendon Robinson and Stanley Okoro, lifelong friends and founders of the marijuana-related website 420Events.com, found a solution to a problem that had plagued them: how to bring people most frequently impacted by the war on drugs into the now-legal and fast-growing cannabis industry.
Combining their business and industry knowledge, Robinson and Okoro created the Minority Cannabis Academy, a Jersey City-based nonprofit that is essentially a cannabis vocational school for minorities: a place where students learn the science and business of marijuana to get a leg up on jobs in the field. You might call Robinson, Okoro and their students “potrepreneurs.”
“Education is the foundation of this industry. It may not be the sexiest,” said Robinson, “but if we don’t make sure the Black and brown community is educated, we are doing a great disservice.”
After developing its curriculum for 16 months and vetting candidates for their first cohort, MCA held its first class July 11, 2022. (Classes are conducted online.) Eight weeks later, the school graduated 23 of its 24 students.
Initially, MCA offered “Budtending 101” and “Horticulture.” Budtending is designed for students seeking entry-level work in dispensaries while Horticulture targets prospective suppliers of cannabis by offering classroom instruction and labs on the different ways the plant is processed.
Starting January 2023, the academy will also teach a course on how to start and run a pot dispensary. Two other courses are in the pipeline: Cannabis Extraction and Processing (for those interested in working in labs) and Intro to Medical Marijuana and Cannabis Law.
Said Shakena, one of MCA’s recent graduates, “My favorite part is the lab and the open discussions about how the plants grow because it’s fascinating, and I want to know every aspect because I want to open my own dispensary.”