As New Jersey’s legal weed market continues to grow, more and more colleges are adding cannabis studies to help prepare students interested in entering the multi-billion dollar industry.
Hudson County Community College is the latest to develop a cannabis curriculum with a focus on local residents.
“We want to make sure people from here are given that chance locally here by being educated on how to do it here, because it all starts here – locally,” said Ara Karakashian, the associate dean of business, culinary and hospitality programs. “Not people from out of county coming here for the sake of profitability.”
Karakashian developed the college’s cannabis program with input from longtime New Jersey industry professionals. The college intends to offer certifications and an associate degree.
“We’re excited to work with the local community, work with local entrepreneurs and we’re at a place where we can actually choose which corporations, which local companies we would want to work with,” Karakashian said. “Of course the preference is, as the dean, I would prefer to collaborate with a company that is based locally, trying to open locally.”
The Jersey City-based college is situated to make sure as many area residents as possible have a chance at getting their feet planted in the industry, Karakashian said.
“We saw the adverse effects of the criminalization of cannabis on the local community and we decided who better to offer a pathway to the industry now that things are loosening up in New Jersey,” he said.
“As time goes on and we develop a culture that’s accepting of this plant and of this industry we continue to push and move that ball,” said Josh Alb, founder of Edison-based education company Cannademix.
Alb’s company worked alongside the college to host a free community-oriented event June 23 (11 am-6pm) about cannabis education, policy, business and community restoration.
The event will include speaker panels and an expungement clinic. The Cannademix event is one of the more recent examples of how academia around New Jersey are partnering with companies on how to enter the cannabis market interlaced with themes of social justice.
Lori Margolin, associate vice president for continuing education and workforce development, noted the event was the first of its kind at the college.
“I’m really excited about the event because it’s the first one that we’re doing like this and it’s bringing together so many different aspects of the cannabis sector,” she said.
Cannabis attorney Jessica Gonzalez of the Hiller, a PC law firm who is involved with developing the college’s curriculum, will be a speaker at the event.
“The makeup of HCCC is primarily Latino students, followed by Black students. HCCC is located in Jersey City, the most diverse city in the United States where I was raised, ”she said. “It’s an important step for this institution to embrace cannabis to ensure that most harmed communities have access to cannabis education and are aware of the opportunities this industry brings.”
Supporting the college as a cannabis attorney is a way of giving back, Gonzalez said.
“I’m looking forward to teaching cannabis courses in the same room where my mother sat as she worked to give my sister and I a better life.”
Hudson Community joins Stockton University, Rowan University, Raritan Valley Community College and Bergen Community College in establishing curriculum to help meet the opportunities opening up in the new industry.
Our journalism needs your support. Please subscribe today to NJ.com.
Jelani Gibson is content lead for NJ Cannabis Insider. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @ jelanigibson1 and on LinkedIn.