KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Northwest Missouri State University is seeing increased enrollment in online courses focused on the cannabis industry.
That follows growth Missouri has seen in the industry after recreational legalization in 2022.
“As an educator and as an education institution we really want to be on the front of a lot of things that are coming into the state of Missouri," said Dr. Jay Johnson, Northwest Missouri State University's associate provost.
“We're in the business of providing some training for people looking to get into that career since really nobody has done that in the state of Missouri before — officially," Johnson said. "Because it gives the whole thing legitimacy to see an old standby like higher education coming in and being supportive of a new and growing industry and providing education to help the workforce in that industry."
He says until a few years ago, when the school began offering courses, there wasn't much people could learn from institutional sources.
Until even more recently, there was nothing legally to do with that knowledge in Missouri, but that's changed after legalization.
“To be able to provide something like this for our region and the state is very exciting," Johnson said.
Gabrielle Sparks became interested in the cannabis industry years ago when she learned how much medical marijuana helped someone she knew.
After legalization, she decided she would make a career in the industry and enrolled in NW Missouri State's courses.
“I chose the horticulture and agriculture lesson. I was thinking about getting into more (of) the science/medicine-type thing like that so I can get more into the pharmaceutical industry," she said.
Green Flower is the company the university brought on to create the curriculum.
Green Flower's CEO Max Simon says making the workforce more knowledgeable and legitimate is good for both businesses and buyers.
"There's been a real surge of interest because people see this (as) an industry that is being born essentially overnight," Simon said.
The horticulture, business, policy and health care courses are all online, which means the hundreds of students who have taken them don't just hail from the metro, but also from multiple surrounding states.
"The industry is a lot more legitimate than people believe," Simon said. "And the opportunities are a lot more abundant than people believe."
Sparks says she's been inspired not just by the industry's success in the state, but by how much she says it has helped people.
"Really inspiring seeing how far that this industry really can get you," she said. "And you see them booming in the industry. You see them helping millions of people, and they love that they're helping millions of people now that they can actually do it in a legal way."