The Northeastern Institute of Cannabis Is Opening in Natick

The school's aim is to teach students about all things marijuana.

The term “higher education” is taking on a whole new meaning in Massachusetts.

Starting in September, the Northeastern Institute of Cannabis will be opening its doors and offering classes on cannabis history, patient services, medical marijuana state law, cultivation, activism, and the science of strains. “The courses are vast,” said Cara Crabb-Burnham, the school’s administrator. “It will be everything you need to know about marijuana in Massachusetts and New England.”

Northeastern Institute of Cannabis employees have been working hard on their curriculum for the last seven months, and are rounding up staff to teach their range of classes come this fall. Crabb-Burnham said people would likely be able to start signing up for various courses, which will be held on the nights and weekends, starting at the end of the summer. “You can go to one course, or you can go for the whole shebang,” she said.

The school will start off with the basic “101’s” and have a strong focus on cannabis education and job training for growers, dispensary staff, businesses, patients, caregivers and stakeholders, making the industry easy for everyone to understand, according to their mission statement. Students that complete 12 classes will be “certified” by the school, which Crabb-Burnham said will help with possible job placement or give them a better understanding about rules and regulations.

“The school will certify students so that they will have basic and advanced knowledge of the industry,” said Crabb-Burnham, adding that the certification will make it easier for dispensary owners to find qualified employees when opening up shops. “Eventually we will have more advanced courses like cannabis breeding, legal training, and how to run a non-profit organization.”

As the school grows, said Crabb-Burnham, the Northeastern Institute of Cannabis will expand on their course offerings, and adjust them based on how the laws in Massachusetts are written.

Recently, a marijuana advocacy group started a ballot campaign initiative to get a question about legalizing the drug statewide in front of voters in 2016. Under current state law, medical marijuana is legal for patient use, and officials are working out the details in regards to allowing dispensaries to open up shop and serve people with debilitating illnesses who rely on the drug to cope.

While the school won’t have marijuana on site, and students won’t be handling the drug during their time in class, the Institute is in the midst of bringing in educators who will teach courses. They are sifting through a vast pool of experts versed on the subject from around the state. Crabb-Burnham said they are currently talking with a local professor involved in the cannabis world who hopefully will become the school’s chancellor. “There’s a lot of blood, sweat, tears, heart, and soul that have been going into making this a functional and working idea,” she said.

She said the town of Natick, where the school will have headquarters, has been supportive of them opening up. Boston called Natick’s Town Administrator, who acknowledged that the Institute was getting ready to offer classes, and said there have been no issues with the educational venture thus far.

In April, Natick voted during Town Meeting to limit where dispensaries can open to a certain section of the town. Natick is also already home to the state’s first company specializing in technology for medical marijuana dispensaries, according to reports.

The only problem the Northeastern Institute of Cannabis has faced is securing the occupational training licensing from the state, but they predict they will have that by July, and be ready to certify students as entry-level industry professionals. Students will be able to finish an entire course load in three weeks, according to the school.

Crabb-Burnham is confident everything will work out in the school’s favor, calling Massachusetts a great place for a service like this. “We picked Massachusetts over places like California because California is saturated. They have all types of schools. But what we are doing here is a little different,” she said. “We have a great community here, and having this is a great chance to give us a space and do awesome things and just grow and help establish a market.”