Starting this spring, the University of Arizona will launch a Cannabis Certificate Program that students can complete in about six months.

Predictably, some participants will refer to it as “high” school. Undergraduates may remember it fondly as “an eighth” of their collegiate career (6/48 total months spent in college).

Jokes aside, it’s always a big deal whenever a large and highly-visible public institution such as UA adds cannabis education to its course offerings. Molding the next wave of innovators and leaders—and spending taxpayer dollars to do it, no less—only further enhances and legitimizes the cannabis industry’s presence in the state.

Arizona, you may recall, legalized recreational cannabis in 2020 and has had medical cannabis since 2010. As its marketplace continues to evolve and expand, highly-trained and educated individuals are needed to give Arizona consumers the most optimized experience possible.

“This, like other hot industries, deserves a workforce that’s trained, prepared and professional. Here at the University of Arizona, we look forward to being a part of the conversation,” said Dr. Craig Wilson, UA’s vice provost for Online, Distance and Continuing Education. “I think it’s important that education services look at this and take it seriously, because the [cannabis] industry is large and our ability to help and continue to professionalize the workforce will be helpful in its growth.”

To Wilson’s point, a 2021 Jobs Report states that the legal cannabis industry now supports over 321,000 jobs nationwide, with growth in the sector having risen 27.5% since 2017. What’s more, when Arizona compiles its 2021 annual cannabis sales totals, that figure is projected to exceed $1 billion.

With this much revenue at stake, academic preparation must be equally as ambitious and rigorous, and UA’s version is certainly no cakewalk. The program features three online courses (Business of Cannabis, Cannabis Law and Policy, and Cannabis Healthcare and Medicine) that last eight weeks each and result in their own certificate. Obtaining all three certificates, as previously mentioned, would take about half a year in total to complete.

To develop the program’s curriculum, UA partnered with cannabis education company Greenflower. Enrollment costs $2,950, and a $500 registration discount is available for the first cohort, whose coursework begins March 7.

It’s important to note that the University of Arizona’s Cannabis Certificate Program is noncredit in nature, meaning those who fulfill its requirements would not accumulate academic credit toward graduation (or school transfer). But to the next generation of cannabis industry experts, that may not even matter. For them, the program represents an opportunity to acquire skills and knowledge most relevant and valuable to their future endeavors.

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