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St. Paul College announces new program to prepare students for cannabis careers

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St. Paul College is offering new certificate programs created to prepare students for entry-level jobs in the cannabis industry, the first program of its kind at a Minnesota community college.

Students can choose between three specialties. The cultivation program teaches students to trim and package plants, and the retail program prepares them to work in stores, helping clients select the best products. The extraction and product development program offers instruction on how to make edibles and topical products and ensure the dosages are correct.

“With all of our courses, but particularly with the cannabis courses, we are really looking at how we can eliminate barriers for students to get into the workforce,” said Brady Malecha, a program manager at the school.

Industry analysts expect to see a rise in the number of jobs in the cannabis industry in the coming years. Minnesota has allowed patients with qualifying conditions to use marijuana for medicinal purposes since 2015. A new law passed last summer paved the way for legal recreational use, with large retail sales expected to begin in 2025.

It’s difficult to pinpoint how many Minnesota schools are offering classes focused on cannabis education, because the Office of Higher Education doesn’t collect that data.

St. Paul College is the second school within the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system to offer this type of program. St. Paul College and St. Cloud State University are partnering with Green Flower, a California-based company, for their cannabis courses.

Each of the online programs last nine weeks and cost $750. They consist largely of pre-recorded videos from industry experts who have worked in other states that legalized marijuana, but Malecha said students can also be paired with a mentor.

Unlike traditional classes, which typically have specific start dates and times, students can complete the classes on their own schedules and “they can truly start at any time of the week, any time of the year,” Malecha said.

College leaders will be closely watching as state officials finalize the regulations for recreational marijuana sales, Malecha said, and they’ll be meeting with community members and city and county officials to ensure the programs are meeting their needs.

It’s “not to say these programs are necessarily going to be our end all, be all,” he said. “I think there’s going to be a lot of growth from the community listening sessions.”

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