How Education is Professionalising the Cannabis Sector

by Katya Kowalski

Although cannabis has a rich history dating back thousands of years for medicinal use, its illegality has halted structured scientific research to understand its benefits. We are seeing progress on this front, but the effects of prohibitionist ideologies continue to impact the ways in which medical cannabis is viewed.

As we see an expansion into research, interest and regulatory change for medical cannabis – now more than ever it is important to focus efforts on education and professionalisation. There is a need to understand the effects, potential for medical development and educate people on what current evidence looks like.

With medical cannabis becoming increasingly more available and ‘mainstream’, credible education is necessary on the plant’s benefits. We are seeing a growing curiosity around cannabis but to see it truly expand, this topic must be discussed on all levels – most importantly through well-structured education.

A plethora of myths and misinformation still surrounds cannabis, which leads to uncertainty from the public and healthcare professionals for use in therapeutic settings.

This makes it more important than ever to bring a level of legitimacy and raise standards in this industry, as off the back of this stigma will begin to dissolve.

For this reason, cannabis education has to inform without sensationalism. Instead, it must contain the latest scientific information presented in a digestible format.

Although the UK industry has not developed to the point of requiring cannabis certifications as of yet, the sector is evolving at a pace. We are likely to see certification requirements in the near future to ensure credible training and education is met.

Sativa Learning is one step ahead of the game, providing accredited online courses within the cannabis industry.

“The professionalisation of education in the cannabis industry is a welcome move in the right direction. Professional certifications will be essential throughout all avenues of the future cannabis industry, from cannabis cultivation to quality assurance, customer service, selling cannabis-based products as well as prescribing cannabis medicine.

Low figures for cannabis prescriptions in the UK is in part due to the vast majority medical professionals remaining uneducated on cannabis based medicinal products. With calls for General Practitioners to become the primary prescribers of medical cannabis, an entire medical workforce is in need of trusted training and education on cannabis medicine.

In an industry rife with myths and misconceptions, we can bring about a level of legitimacy and raise standards through professional accredited education. And with that stigma associated with cannabis will begin to dissolve.

Nothing else on earth holds the combination of medical value and the power to combat climate change like the cannabis plant – it’s worth educating on.”

We are already seeing professional education developments in North America, which is several years ahead of the UK. British Columbia requires a mandatory government certification through the Selling it Right scheme.

Higher education institutions are also beginning to incorporate cannabis education into their curriculum. In recent years we have seen an expansion into accredited and professional courses focusing on cannabis at universities. For instance, Green-Flower based in California has partnered with universities to offer education programs in a variety areas of the cannabis industry.

The introduction and expansion of these programs comes as no surprise given the recent estimation of the US cannabis industry supporting 321,000 full-time jobs. Cannabis is a growing industry. In order for it to continue gaining legitimate support and sustainable growth, professionals entering the space must be sufficiently educated on it.

It is particularly difficult to see high quality education about cannabis without a rich understanding of the sector. Education is also necessary to break stigmatising barriers among individuals who are opposed to cannabis.

We can’t expect the public, other industries, or even our government to tackle the misinformation, over-sensualisation, or professionalisation of the cannabis industry – this must be addressed within the space.

It’s totally understandable that they don’t appreciate the importance of what we are all trying to set precedent in, and we must enforce quality informed media. We should aid one another in platforming the right messages for us to change the image of cannabis, and what we need are more cannabis specific professionals to enter the space. If you are a writer, creative, or even in finance, we must align extra efforts in peer-to-peer conversation for others to learn from – and only then together can we all become better beacons & informational gateways for others to learn from.”

From the outside looking in, cannabis can appear to be a ‘niche’ industry. However, this is far from reality. Education around industrial hemp, medical cannabis or a recreational brand all require significantly different bases of knowledge and different ways of communication.

As cannabis becomes increasingly more acceptable and appetite for reform builds, it is necessary to see professionals with a deep understanding of the sector to join forces with mainstream outlets, to ensure high-quality education reaches the demographic that requires it.

Professionalising the image of cannabis through education must occur at every level. Specialised courses should provide a solid foundation of emerging evidence and the areas that warrant further research. High quality education of the general public must also occur – simple and sensible messages to responsibly eliminate misinformation is necessary.

In order to responsibly professionalise the cannabis sector, education must promote critical thinking, acknowledging the shortcomings cannabis still faces currently and present feasible solutions.

The largest barrier to seeing a change in attitude and reduction in stigma for cannabis has been a lack of education – although the work is far from complete, it is changing at a pace.

This piece was written by Katya Kowalski, Head of Strategy at Volteface. Tweets @KowalskiKatya

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