This article was originally published in Ohio Capital Journal.
Like most colleges, posters and artwork line the hallways at the Cleveland School of Cannabis. Except the key difference here is what’s featured on the posters — marijuana.
The Cleveland School of Cannabis prepares students to work in the marijuana industry by giving them hands-on experience in the school’s grow room, dispensary, and cooking lab.
“We’re not sitting around smoking all day,” said Nicole Fenix, the school’s director of education. “We do have fun, but it is like any other educational institute.”
The school expects to see a boom in Ohio’s cannabis industry if Issue 2 passes next week.
The citizen initiative would legalize and regulate the cultivation, manufacturing, testing and the sale of marijuana to Ohioans 21 and up. It would also legalize home grow for Ohioans 21 and up with a limit of six plants per person and 12 plants per residence, and impose a 10% tax at the point of sale for each transaction.
A recent Ohio State University Drug Enforcement and Policy Center study estimates the potential annual tax revenue from legalizing marijuana ranges from $276 million to $403 million in the fifth year of an operational cannabis market.
While Fenix is excited Issue 2 is on the ballot, she said it’s been disheartening hearing from the opposition.
“You feel like you’re making such great strides, and then you hear all this rhetoric come back up,” Fenix said. “It’s a shame that (marijuana has) been ostracized and villainized for as long as it has been.”
Protect Ohio Workers and Families, the opposition to marijuana legalization, predicts Ohio would see an additional 48 fatal vehicle crashes and 2,298 more injury crashes if voters approve Issue 2, based on projections using the Ohio Department of Public Safety’s crash statistics and research from the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety.
“Legalization of marijuana use leads to public safety issues as well, including higher percentages of fatal car crashes directly attributed to the marijuana impaired drivers,” Delaware County Sheriff Jeff Balzer said in a video for Protect Ohio Workers and Families.
Doug Berman, the executive director at the Drug Enforcement and Policy Center at Ohio State University, previously told the Capital Journal that it’s tough to tell if that will actually happen, saying, “It’s a lot more nuanced.”
Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine, who is against legalizing cannabis, has previously said “this is not your grandfather’s marijuana.”
Fenix agrees with the governor’s assessment.
“Now we test it to make sure it’s safe,” Fenix said. “It’s regulated, it’s a better quality, it’s gonna have more medicinal effects. … The cannabis industry is a science from growing the plant, to how the plant works in the body to processing. So chemistry, biology and a little bit of physics.”
Cleveland School of Cannabis
CSC opened in 2017 — one year after medical marijuana was legalized in Ohio, but the state’s first dispensary didn’t open until 2019.
Students are not smoking marijuana in classes and it is not a licensed cultivator or dispensary, so the school is not actually growing or selling medical marijuana. Instead, the school uses hemp which is destroyed after it’s been fully used.
The school received state approval from the Ohio State Board of Career College and Schools and their certificate program teaches students in five different areas — cannabis dispensaries, cannabis horticulture, cannabis processing, industrial hemp and medical applications of cannabis. There is also an executive program, which is a combination of all five certificate programs.
CSC’s tuition ranges from $7,500 to $14,000 and it is the only State Approved Career School for Cannabis education east of Colorado.
The school — which offers a mix of in-person and online classes — usually has between 130-150 students per term. More than 900 students have graduated from the school, which has an 82% graduation rate.
“Our students have a good foundation of understanding what their job is going to be,” Fenix said.
CSC has capped their in-person classes to 24 students and they try to keep their online classes between 30-35 students. They offer six-week terms and six terms are offered per year.
A sampling of courses include history of cannabis, dispensary operations, cannabis law & policies, and CBD comprehensive, among others. Some of the career options graduates pursue include master grower, cannabis gardener, dispensary manager and cultivation consultant, to name a few.
While a majority of their students are from Ohio, it’s not uncommon for an out-of-state student to attend. One student drives in from Pittsburgh everyday, Fenix said. Most of their graduates stay in Ohio after graduation, but sometimes students move out west for the jobs.
While the school typically attracts young adults and those fresh out of high school, CSC also enrolls people in their 30-40’s who are looking to make a career change. Students have to be 18 or older to take classes, but the marijuana industry only hires people 21 and older.
From high school teacher to marijuana educator
Education is Fenix’s background. She previously taught in an alternative high school setting and also worked with homeschooled students.
But her introduction to cannabis started when her son started using medical marijuana to help treat his ulcerative colitis, an inflammatory bowel disease that causes inflammation and sores in the digestive tract.
“I really got to witness cannabis as medicinal through my son,” Fenix said. “It was just a big eye opener.”
She started working at CSC at the end of 2017, the same year the school opened.
“I’m a big believer in cannabis as medicine,” Fenix said.
Ohio Medical Marijuana
There are 29 active dispensary licenses, but 104 certificates of operation as of Sept. 21, according to the Ohio Medical Marijuana Control Program.
Twenty-three cultivators in Ohio have received Level I provisional licenses and 21 have received certificates of operation. Fourteen have received Level II provisional licenses and 13 have received certificates of operation.
There have been 822,760 medical marijuana patient recommendations (a patient can have more than one recommendation), 391,692 patients have registered and 182,068 patients have both an active registration and an active recommendation.
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