St Thomas Source reports
Virgin Islanders hoping to enter the soon-to-be legal cannabis industry could get deeply discounted cannabis college courses courtesy of Government House.
Gov. Albert Bryan’s office plans to foot up to 60 percent of tuition for courses on horticulture and plant maintenance, cannabis-related manufacturing, and the business side of the cannabis industry. The classes are offered by Oakland-based Oaksterdam University, which bills itself as the nation’s first cannabis college.
Oaksterdam President and CEO Dale Sky Jones said while the industry is exciting and can be very profitable, there are also myriad pitfalls to watch out for. Predatory lenders, complicated regulations, and even new-to-legal-cannabis enthusiasm can lead to disaster, Jones warned.
Some of the safest new-business bets may be cannabis-adjacent, not cannabis centered, she said. Only a few of the eager prospectors who flooded to California and Alaska when gold was discovered actually got rich. But those who sold mining equipment, food, and shelter went on to do well.
“What we don’t want to do is create generational debt because we are trying to create generational wealth,” she said.
Ancillary opportunities include travel and tourism, real estate, marketing and advertising, contracting, science, security, compliance, water reclamation, hardware and equipment, textiles, waste management, general contracting and more.
Even those who think they know the industry well, people she calls legacy operators, need education on how to navigate the legal market.
“We are very accustomed to having individuals that have been selling cannabis, growing cannabis, manufacturing cannabis for years. We know you know. And so we tailor programs for folks that are both beginners and folks that are very experienced but need to understand how to be compliant with the legal industry,” Jones said. “Even folks that have decades of experience in the cannabis industry find themselves learning more from Oaksterdam.”
Jones said her university has dropped its enrollment fees 35 percent for the Virgin Islands in an effort to spur participation. With the Government House discount, classes in horticulture and the business of cannabis that normally cost $1,995 will only cost USVI students $519. A “budtending” course — something akin to bartending — that normally goes for between $486 and $695 would cost USVI learners just $126.
A budtending course, for example, might cover learning about cannabis advocacy, historical and current policy around cannabis, federal and local laws, cannabis science, safety and efficacy of medical marijuana, methods of ingestion, and more.
The business of cannabis course includes lessons on steps to launching an effective and efficient business, licensing requirements, economic principles of cannabis, budgeting and finance management, marketing and branding, an overview of processing and manufacturing, ethics and leadership, and more.
A horticulture course includes lessons on a plant’s lifecycle, harvesting, soil science and microbiology, organic and sustainable growing techniques, lighting and ventilation controls, pest and pathogen management, seeds, and more.
To be eligible for the Virgin Islands discount, one must be a full-time resident of the territory and meet other basic qualifications.
The Virgin Islands took a step closer to full legalization Sept. 10 when it published draft rules and regulations for legal sale and use in the territory.