‘Cannabis U’ Initiatives Gain Yet Another Graduate-Level Program Designed to Deepen Big-Business Skills

The evolution of the cannabis industry from stoners tending clandestine backyard plots to multimillion companies operating legal, industrial-size operations has grown the need for professionals steeped in supply-chain, financial, management and agricultural skills
Written by 
Joan Oleck, Cannabis Journalist.
|Last Updated:
Excelsior College

The result has been a host of non-credit educational initiatives by colleges and universities. But credit programs exist, too. The newest is an online program at the graduate level launched this week at Excelsior College, in Albany, N.Y.

Excelsior’s Graduate Certificate in Cannabis Control offers students with a college degree the opportunity to deepen their professional knowledge by earning a cannabis business certificate and, optionally, (starting in spring 2021) applying its nine credits toward an MBA or master’s degree in either criminal justice, health sciences or public administration.

“We see a need for this,” Excelsior’s dean of graduate studies Scott Dolan, Ph.D., said in an interview this week. “One of the things we’ve heard from industry experts is that some people entering [the industry] from a business perspective are looking at this as sort of a gold rush and that the challenges of doing business in this space need to be understood before you think about investments.

“It’s really important to have an understanding of the regulatory environment.”

In fact, regulation – reflecting the “control” in the program’s title – is the focus of Excelsior’s three-course program. “Our regulatory and compliance focus is different from most of the other institutions’ [programs], which are more on the agricultural or pharmaceutical and medicinal side,” Dolan said.

Excelsior’s regulatory emphasis is reflected in its cannabis program’s course titles:

  • Implications of Legalization of Cannabis: Policy and Compliance
  • Interstate/International Commerce: Policy and Regulatory Environment
  • Risk Assessment in Cannabis Control

The program will cost $4,653; and each course requires an 18-hour-a-week, eight-week commitment. Students will take online asynchronous courses on their own schedules but interact with their teachers – recruited from the industry – as well as their fellow students. Student forums, webinars and panels will also be part of the mix.

“The certificate program will enhance students’ understanding and interpretation of a complex regulatory environment that has significant variation across jurisdictions – federal, state and municipal,” says a statement announcing the program’s launch.

Excelsior is a regionally credited, not-for-profit institution whose roots date back to 1971, when New York State established it for students from the military sector, who often encounter problems transferring college credits among the multiple institutions they attend. Excelsior has since become private and now offers associates’ through masters’ degrees to its 20,000 students, including 1,700 at the graduate level.

In the interview, Dolan pointed out that Excelsior has had years to fine-tune its online coursework, which so many colleges and universities only now are striving to adapt to in response to the Covid-19 pandemic.

In fact, “online” is the mode of the recently announced educational initiative announced by California-based Green Flower. That company has partnered with the continuing education divisions at the University of California, Riverside; Florida Atlantic University; Northern Michigan University; the University of San Diego; and Mount Aloysius College. Its cannabis business certificates entail 405-hour concentrations in Cannabis Medicine & Healthcare, Enterprise, Agriculture and Law & Policy.

Additionally, there’s a three-course, eight-credit certificate in medical cannabis offered by the Pacific College of Health and Science, based in San Diego.

And at the graduate level, the University of Maryland offers a master’s degree with a science focus, while an MBA with a health-focused cannabis track is offered at University of the Sciences, a pharmaceutical school in Philadelphia.


Joan Oleck
Joan Oleck
Cannabis Journalist
Joan Oleck is a freelance writer currently specializing in the cannabis industry and cannabis tech. She has been an editor and reporter on staff for such publications as Forbes.com, Business Week, Newsday and The Detroit News. She won the Jesse Neal Award for best feature series in a trade publication, Restaurant Business, and a GLAAD Award for a Salon story about discrimination in adoption against single and gay parents

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