The Northeastern Institute of Cannabis Is Helping Students Get Into the Marijuana Industry

A new institute in Natick offers a comprehensive program in (legally) growing and selling medical marijuana.

photograph by jesse burke

photograph by jesse burke

Earlier this summer, nine of the 20 Massachusetts groups ­approved to open medical marijuana dispensaries had their privileges revoked following further application review. Among the reasons listed, as reported by the Boston Globe, were misleading profit models and a lack of support from the neighborhoods in which they were slated to run. This probably came as no surprise to Mickey Martin.

A longtime marijuana advocate and the author of Medical Marijuana 101, Martin has spent more than a decade helping others navigate often confusing and contradictory legislation to write business models for their cannabis operations. For someone who’s watched friends sit in prison for growing plants in their backyard, legalization is “a ­refreshing change,” says Martin, who ran his own successful marijuana edibles company in California until he was shut down in 2007; he later pleaded guilty to conspiracy to manufacture a mixture containing marijuana. He learned, he says, and yet few people have the education to become industry professionals. All of that’s about to change.

This month, Martin will open the Northeastern Institute of Cannabis (NIC), a new school in Natick offering a 12-course basic-training program to help students get into the burgeoning marijuana industry. With classes in everything from cannabis laws and safety to patient services and the history and science of the plant, NIC will give people the information they need to “get their foot in the door at these places, and it’s probably going to be a leg up,” Martin says.

There’s certainly demand: “You’ve got 11 dispensaries, and they’re hoping to get it up to 20 or 30 over the next year,” Martin says. But Massachusetts’ laws require that dispensaries sell only what they themselves grow—as Martin puts it, that’s the equivalent of asking restaurateurs to run the kitchen, the dining room, and the entire food-supply chain. “People need to understand it is an industry. [Marijuana] is a relatively safe, effective, and helpful substance…. We hope providing education will help compel the movement forward,” Martin says. To that end, he’s enlisted a team of experts throughout the medical cannabis community to share their expertise.

NIC’s founder is optimistic that the legalization movement will continue to grow, citing the fact that the New York Times editorial board recently came out in favor of legalizing marijuana. “It’s a big relief that we’re able to do this and make it a serious business model,” Martin says. “Cannabis enthusiasts can finally start to come out of the closet.”

NIC classes, $199 each, or $1,500 for the complete program and certificate.