As the marijuana industry takes shape in Massachusetts, it will need a trained workforce. What skills will that person behind the dispensary counter have? How about employees who will process marijuana? Who’s training these workers? Here’s a glimpse as the Northeastern Institute of Cannabis (NIC) in Natick opens its doors.
On a sunny fall afternoon, men and women sat at tables in a stark white classroom. For that day, the class was called “patient services.”
“Get a complete list of symptoms, right at the beginning,” instructor Bill Downing said. “Ask your patients, ‘How long have you suffered from this condition?’ It gives you a feeling for what their situation is.”
Downing, who is also a marijuana caregiver, clicks through charts that match the reasons patients use marijuana — relief from pain, depression, nausea and glaucoma, with compounds in the plant that are most likely to help.
He runs through the marijuana-infused products his students would be selling at a dispensary: tinctures, lip balm, bubble bath, salves and lotions.
“Topical applications are great for localized pain,” he said. “And they don’t get you high.”
This is one of 12 classes students must complete and pass tests on to receive a certificate from NIC. It’s a for-profit training center with two classrooms in an office park. The course costs $1,500 and covers growing marijuana, legal, business, science and regulatory issues.
“This industry’s coming, and we need to be ready to train the workers,” said NIC events coordinator Chris Foye. “That’s what we’re going to do.”
NIC opened this fall. So far, 14 students have graduated and 70 more are enrolled. There’s one other classroom program in Massachusetts. The New England Grass Roots Institute says its classes are for person enrichment, not professional training. Foye says NIC is filling a demand from dispensary owners who will be required to pay $500 to register each employee yearly with the state. Continue reading