- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 11, 2009

SOUTHFIELD, Mich. | Nearly a year after voters in this economically disadvantaged state overwhelmingly passed a ballot initiative approving the consumption of medicinal marijuana, a new trade school has opened its doors to educate aspiring growers.

Med Grow Cannabis College, located in the Detroit suburb of Southfield, is set to graduate its first class of students later this month. Its co-founder and president, Nick Tennant, the 24-year-old son of a General Motors Corp. employee, said he sees a significant opportunity to teach standards and safety in an industry that can eventually improve the state’s sagging business climate.

“This is profitable and poised for tremendous growth,” Mr. Tennant said.

Although some might jokingly call him the dope dean, Mr. Tennant is serious, even as his appearance is blond, hip and wholesome.

“A lot of people think you can pick up a book, put some seeds in the soil, shine some lights and you’ll have a crop,” he said of the information needed to grow pot well. “But there are so many variables, and it’s like a trade to grow it — with skills like a master plumber or electrician.”

So far, there doesn’t seem to be any opposition to this trade school.

In a spacious facility featuring a lab, a classroom and growing rooms, students take a six-week night course that covers botany, horticulture, business, law, history — even cooking with a trained chef who teaches how pot can be included with such dishes as sushi — all in an effort to cultivate quality medical-grade marijuana.

Roger McDaniel, a disabled carpenter and former semitrailer mechanic, and his wife, Valeri, from Taylor, Mich., are taking the classes. They said the education is far more in-depth than they ever imagined.

Mr. McDaniel, 53, who was injured in a motorcycle accident, said marijuana has helped ease his symptoms in a more natural way than prescription medications. He and his wife enjoy gardening and said the course work is an extension of their interests as well as a way to improve their quality of life.

“Instead of living on all these pills, the Vicodins and Lortabs that tear up your insides, this gives you the pain relief and you are not damaging your body with all these chemicals,” Mr. McDaniel said of his medical marijuana use.

Most surprising about the classes? “The whole walk of folks we’ve come across there,” Mrs. McDaniel said. “It’s just a real mesh of people - from young folks to people our age.”

Perry Belcher, who lives near Flint, Mich., teaches the History of Cannabis class at Med Grow and said he’s interested in providing facts — not talking politics — even as the issue has divided the nation.

“As a patient, I can testify to the results of this,” he said. “I want to make sure that they get the best knowledge.”

Mr. Belcher added that marijuana has been used medicinally since 6000 B.C. and by many cultures around the world. But he said only in the 20th century did it become a prohibition issue and was demonized as harmful. Now, he said, with more states enacting medical marijuana laws, the culture around its importance medically is changing.

“The first part of my class is called the pros and cons,” he said. “I let people make the decision on their own on whether they feel this is right or not.”

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