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OCC launches cannabis education program on cultivation, dispensary training and extraction

Onondaga Community College

It’s been nearly two years since New York legalized recreational marijuana use. While it’s taken a while for dispensaries to begin operating across the state, higher education has gotten on board, with institutions like Syracuse University, Cornell and SUNY Morrisville offering classes that lead to cannabis certifications.

There’s more competition coming online, with Onondaga Community College starting up a Cannabis Education Program.

OCC’s program is being offered in partnership with the Cleveland School of Cannabis, which has been in the business for six years now. OCC President Warren Hilton said this makes their program a little different than the others in central New York.

"This is created by individuals who understand the industry," Hilton said. "It’s self-paced, it’s online, it’s more affordable than the other programs that are out there. We purposefully did that."

Ellen Abbott

Students can earn a cannabis workforce certificate in one or more of three areas of study: cultivation, dispensary training and extraction. Cleveland School of Cannabis President Tyrone Russell said their programs are continually being updated, and should be taken seriously. He admits the ins and outs of cannabis can be complicated.

"That’s why we take education seriously," Russell said. "That's why we take this process seriously. We don’t want people to think 'I can go in every now and then to take a course.' You got to be committed."

Estimates are this industry will create 60,000 jobs across the state by 2027. Potential employers in central New York will be hiring when they get state approval to sell.

"Just for my business alone, which is going to be a small dispensary, I would be looking at almost 30 employees, adding on," said Jim Charon, owner of Syracuse Hemporium.

Mike Flynn owns Flynnstoned Cannabis Company in Syracuse’s Armory Square neighborhood. He is also waiting to get a license to sell marijuana in his 15,000-square-foot shop. But when he gets it, he’ll need 25 employees to start and looks forward to a local program graduating a potential workforce.

"We don’t have any of this experience in New York state, so I’m depending on out-of-staters to come in and teach everybody what’s going on," Flynn said. "It’s great they’re going to learn it right here in Syracuse and hopefully come work for me."

OCC is also offering 30% off tuition to the first five students who register before February 3.

Ellen produces news reports and features related to events that occur in the greater Syracuse area and throughout Onondaga County. Her reports are heard regularly in regional updates in Morning Edition and All Things Considered.