Maryland universities deny cannabis classes

Ashley Sokolowski, Associate Editor

AACC is in the process of setting up the country’s first college credit certificate to train entry-level workers for jobs in the cannabis industry.  

Shad Ewart, chair of the Business Management Department, has proposed a 16-credit program that teaches business students the ins and outs of the medical marijuana industry.  

“The reason I want to do this is because I believe … the members of the Maryland cannabis industry … are looking for trained employees and they want them … trained in certain things,” said Ewart.  

Maryland legalized medical marijuana in 2014 and the state’s first dispensary opened in December 2017. According to the Maryland Medical Cannabis Commission the state has about 65 licensed dispensaries in Maryland, including two in Anne Arundel County.  

AACC may be the only college in the state to teach cannabis-related courses for a while. The University System of Maryland has advised its 12 affiliated colleges not to start cannabis programs on campus.  

In a statement to Campus Current, USM said Maryland law “provides no authorization for institutions to engage in medical marijuana research or education. Therefore, the USM has advised that institutions avoid engaging in educational programs in furtherance of these activities at this time.”  

Ewart said he understands why colleges would be nervous about offering cannabis-related programs because the federal government has not legalized the use or sale of medical marijuana. Still, Ewart said he “still believe[s] there are job opportunities out there and that’s the most important thing that should drive us.” 

Ewart already teaches the course BPA 227, Entrepreneurial Opportunities in Emerging Markets: Cannabis Legalization, at AACC. The class helps students understand regulations and businesses in the cannabis industry.  

“The course was awesome,” said Patrick Marnell, a May graduate of AACC who took the class. “When you look at the cannabis industry and how it is having an impact on jobs and availability of jobs … it gave [me] a great insight on all the regulations.”  

Ewart compared the cannabis industry in Maryland to the California Gold Rush of 1848 to 1855. He said AACC cannabis classes are geared toward those in the businesses supporting this new rush.  

“I think the opportunities are not for the people who find the gold nuggets but for the people who sell the picks and shovels,” Ewart said. “So, I try to steer people to those ancillary businesses to start those up as well.”  

Ewart’s course list will be part of a Medical Cannabis Specialist certificate program if the college and the Maryland Higher Education Committee approve it. The courses in the program will cover cannabis-related business, chemistry, botany and addiction psychology.  

“I think [this program is] much needed,” Laura Toskov, a former student and co-owner of Green Point Wellness in Linthicum, said. “From my end with the cannabis dispensary, there are a lot of people very educated in medical cannabis, but to be able to actually have a credit-bearing course that they can take, that helps us because if they say, ‘Hey, I have this certificate that I got from the community college,’ then we know they are really serious about it.”