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CCSF to grow curriculum with marijuana training

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City College of San Francisco is looking to work with Oaksterdam University in Oakland on how to train people to work in the cannabis industry. (Gabrielle Lurie/2015 Special to S.F. Examiner)

San Francisco’s two-year community college plans to roll out a cannabis curriculum following California voters’ decision last year to legalize recreational marijuana.

As City College of San Francisco rejoices over the seven-year reprieve on its accreditation announced Friday, the institution may hit another high note with new marijuana-focused course work.

School officials are working with Oakland-based Oaksterdam University, which was founded as a marijuana trade school in 2007, and labor union United Food and Commercial Workers, which represents workers in the marijuana industry, in developing the program.

“Obviously, with the potential growth of this industry being substantial, particularly in California, we want to offer access to this growing industry,” said Jeff Hamilton, a City College spokesperson, in an email to the San Francisco Examiner. “The school is planning to offer the program beginning in the spring 2018 semester.

Voters approved Proposition 64 in November, legalizing the use of recreational marijuana, and the state plans to issue the first licenses beginning in January 2018.

City College has already entered into a partnership with UFCW to set up what would be an apprenticeship program in the school’s existing Pharmacology Technology department, according to Hamilton.

But talks remain ongoing with Oaksterdam University officials. Dale Sky Jones, Oaksterdam University’s executive chancellor, said, “There are things that need to be sussed out, including who the training is for.”

Jones preferred the curriculum not be restricted to union members. “I just want to make sure the training is available for as much people as possible,” Jones said.

She said that CCSF officials are planning to visit Oaksterdam University in the coming weeks as talks continue. The school has had 30,000 attendees heading into its 10th year and plans to launch online courses.

Hamilton said “at the moment” the course isn’t conceived as being available for open enrollment. Apprentices would need to be sponsored by the UFCW union as is the case with other apprenticeship programs, such as the Gardener Apprenticeship Program in partnership with Laborers’ Local 261.

“The apprentices will be receiving classroom instruction concurrently with on-the-job training with the UFCW,” Hamilton said. He said CCSF wants to use Oaksterdam’s faculty for the program because they “have expertise in this area.”

Oaksterdam teaches students about all aspects of the marijuana industry with courses in legal issues, indoor or outdoor cultivation, and cooking.

In the post-Prop. 64 era, demand for cannabis education is expected to increase.

“You’d hope that training becomes a commodity in a way,” Jones said. “It’s a question of consumer safety.”

The program for UFCW represents the labor union’s continued effort to grow membership and boost its role in the industry by organizing workers at dispensaries. “The UFCW represents thousands of medical cannabis workers in six states and the District of Columbia,” according to the union’s website, and has 1.3 million members nationwide employed in groceries, pharmacies and retailers.

The president of the local chapter of UFCW did not respond to a request for comment.

City College’s entry into the cannabis field is one of a number of workforce recommendations the San Francisco State Cannabis Legalization Task Force released in December after a year of study to prepare for the legalized recreational use of the drug.

The cannabis industry is an opportunity to diversify San Francisco’s job market, which is perceived as being dominated by the tech sector. The permitting scheme could include hiring requirements, but the task force recommends “incentives (rather than mandates) for cannabis businesses to hire local residents and individuals from communities affected by mass incarceration.”

The task force also recommended making it a priority to hire people who have been displaced from The City during the economic boom.

The City is uniquely positioned to shape the local cannabis job market, as it is currently working on regulations and permitting. Mayor Ed Lee has tasked city departments, including the Office of Workforce and Development, which oversees job programs, to come up with proposals by September.

The task force’s report said employment in the cannabis industry in The City should “reduce economic barriers for people of color, women, and formerly incarcerated persons to enter the cannabis industry as entrepreneurs” such as by offering grants and “a prioritized permitting process to help operators reduce initial start-up costs (e.g. subsidized rent while undergoing permitting process).”

The sale of marijuana in California could exceed $7 billion by 2020, according to estimates.

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