- Associated Press - Saturday, February 6, 2021

ESPANOLA, N.M. (AP) - Northern New Mexico College has placed cannabis - or rather, the cannabis industry - in its course catalogue.

The Española-based college is launching an online class that focuses on preparing professionals to be successful in the cannabis industry, which may be taking on added prominence in New Mexico in the near future. Northern New Mexico College is working with SeedCrest, a state-based cannabis education provider, on the eight-week Cannabis Establishment Technician course that starts March 22.

Northern New Mexico College’s course follows a trend of higher education institutions developing curricula in the drug and alcohol industries. Central New Mexico College has certification and degree programs in brewing and beverage management, while New Mexico State University offers a brewery engineering program.

Northern New Mexico President Rick Bailey told the Santa Fe New Mexican that the purpose of the program is to bring an education model to people who are or plan on entering the medical cannabis field to help them better serve clients and the industry.

He said many employees at medical marijuana dispensaries do not have an adequate understanding of products or local and state laws, and the course is designed to help people with both. It opened for registration Feb. 1.

Two years in development, and Bailey said the technician course will abide by the rules and regulation of the state’s medical marijuana program. However, he added it can expand based on any changes to state law regarding marijuana use.

State Sens. Daniel Ivey-Soto, D-Albuquerque, and Cliff Pirtle, R-Roswell, introduced separate cannabis legalization Monday.

“Northern’s interest is in education and we are going to be respectful of what the Legislature decides,” Bailey said. “Right now, there is a need for this education for the current work force. If legislation leads to adult use now or later, we will have a workforce development educational career path that is all ready to go.”

Shanon Jaramillo, owner and CEO of SeedCrest, said Northern New Mexico College’s program is ahead of the curve in providing and education model for students interested in the cannabis industry since it is the first of its kind in New Mexico.

“This is a huge, huge stride for the cannabis industry overall that Rick Bailey can standardize and become a role model for other colleges.” Jaramillo said.

Bailey said state colleges and universities ultimately could develop programs that address both the educational and agricultural aspects of the cannabis industry. He said there is a possibility the technician course could evolve into an associate’s degree program or even more.

“As the state explores the direction of the industry, Northern will be ready to offer the educational and workforce development component of that strategic direction,” Bailey said.

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