Yes, you read that headline correctly. Universities in California, a state with a top tier recreational cannabis market, and the largest cannabis market on the planet, prevent their students the chance to participate in one of the fastest growing industries in the nation. Greenbelt Group, a leading boutique Cannabis consulting firm, reached out to a number of schools to participate in their annual Fellowship Program. Schools included: University of California at San Diego and Santa Clara University, Chapman University, and California State at Bakersville. But each institution turned down our offers, affirmatively denying its students the opportunity to learn about the state’s new billion dollar industry.
We also reached out to schools in neighboring Nevada where there is a thriving cannabis industry providing products across the state. Schools there included:, the University of Nevada at Las Vegas and Nevada State College. Finally, we contacted American University in Washington DC, another jurisdiction that has legalized cannabis. They too refused to share our fellowship opportunity due to cannabis ties. While Nevada and D.C.’s adult-use cannabis markets may not be as prominent as California, the question still stands: Why are institutions in states with legal recreational cannabis denying their students the opportunity to gain valuable experience in an industry with competitive wages and seemingly endless growth potential?
These decisions seem counterintuitive because it puts an additional barrier between students and opportunities in a highly-competitive, growing industry. The cannabis job market grew by over 30% last year, meaning the cannabis industry is a viable post-graduation job market for students. Additionally, to remain competitive as institutions, even apart from their students, it’s important that California colleges and universities create a pipeline to propel and support the state’s growing cannabis industry.
What’s even more ironic is that many of these same universities in California that are denying cannabis work opportunities to their students accept state funding that is directly derived from cannabis tax revenue. Approximately $10 million of cannabis tax revenue went to university research in 2019 in the state of California. Meanwhile in nearby Arizona, the state distributed $31 million last year in cannabis tax revenue to 10 community colleges throughout the state.
Blocking students from cannabis opportunities suggests that an unwarranted stigma surrounding cannabis remains in academia, despite cannabis having been recreationally legal in California for over five years now, seven years in D.C., and six years in Nevada. It is difficult to understand what legitimate issues the schools may have with their students interning in the cannabis industry.
Academia may claim that because they accept federal student aid and other forms of money from the federal government, that they can not permit their students to actively intern in the cannabis industry. Unfortunately, there are examples across the country where universities’ are beginning to educate their students on the growing market and career opportunities. For instance, the University of California, Davis and Stockton University both offer undergraduate cannabis courses. Additionally, University of Vermont, University of Washington, & Olive-Harvey College all offer full length certifications in Cannabis Dispensary Operations. The cannabis industry is growing rapidly and creating career opportunities for students and non-students across the country. Also, Greenbelt Group received nearly 500 applications for 3 unpaid fellowships - created primarily for students. The interest and monetary gains are obvious and American universities should begin preparing their students for the opportunity to work in the cannabis industry.