Cannabis education has seen remarkable momentum over the past 10 years.
In 2010, only a handful of U.S. states had medical cannabis programs. No adult-use legislation was passed anywhere in the country (or the world). Mainstream images of cannabis were mostly outdated stoner stereotypes in movies and television.
Much of America still viewed cannabis from a place of fear—a plant to be demonized, avoided and eradicated.
In 2011, the tide turned for cannabis. Support for cannabis legalization in the U.S. reached 50% for the first time in recorded history. This upward trend continues to this day; Americans are increasingly becoming more open-minded about cannabis being good for society.
Today, medical cannabis is legal in 33 states and 11 states have legalized for adult use (plus Washington D.C. has legal medical and adult use). What an incredible shift in just 10 short years!
Other countries—Canada, Georgia, South Africa and Uruguay—have outright lifted cannabis prohibition. Chile, Colombia, Poland, Thailand, Italy, Greece, Germany, Norway and many others now have medical cannabis laws. The U.S. is waking up to the power and benefits of cannabis, and it’s becoming a global revolution.
How Cannabis Education Got Us Here
The focus in cannabis education over the past 10 years has been split between two-prongs—consumer-facing and legislative-facing.
Steve DeAngelo, the family of Charlotte Figi and many other advocates in the space have exponentially educated the public about the medical and wellness benefits of cannabis. Cannabis advocates demonstrate that the plant is safe, with distinctive life-enhancing and life-saving properties.
The mission behind these advocates is to share stories and provide credible information on the plant’s safety profile, as well as health, happiness and wellness benefits. This led to the U.S. going from barely 50% approval for legalization in 2011 to a 66% approval rating in 2018.
Legislation-facing cannabis education has primarily been about changing medical cannabis laws. This way, Americans can access tested medical cannabis that is safe, and businesses can operate legally.
It’s only been in the last few years that adult use has started to gain steam. This side of cannabis education involves helping the government understand medical benefits, economic benefits, social benefits, tax benefits and job-boosting properties of cannabis.
How do we help spread this understanding? By sharing the latest data. The cannabis industry is generating U.S. employment—including ancillary sectors—supporting more than 500,000 jobs in 2019. And when it comes to taxes, the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy estimated state and local cannabis tax revenue in the US to be $1.6 billion for 2019.
Other benefits of legal cannabis catching the eye of legislators include revitalization, improved security and lighting of once-abandoned areas now home to cannabis companies. Townships and counties are also reporting a reduction in violent crime and an increase of residential property values in areas where cannabis dispensaries are located.
New regulations also free law enforcement and judicial resources to focus on serious crimes, rather than going after cannabis businesses, patients and consumers.
However, as this new, rapidly emerging industry begins to find its feet, the biggest challenges and growing pains in cannabis are becoming more evident with every passing week.
This is where the next phase of cannabis education comes into play.
Cannabis Education in 2020 and Beyond
In this new decade, cannabis education is taking on an evolved focus. With cannabis touching many different sectors of society because of legalization, it’s now time to educate the specialists.
Ten years from now, we’ll be talking about how doctors have integrated cannabis into healing protocols, how pharmacists are properly prescribing cannabis and how health insurance is covering cannabis medicine under policies.
We’ll be talking about how retail establishments around the world are carrying cannabis and CBD products to build businesses and bring safe, legal access to consumers and patients across the globe.
We will see law enforcement adopting an entirely new framework for enforcing cannabis policy, one that respects people’s rights and doesn’t treat innocent bystanders as criminals.
This is where cannabis is heading, and to get there, we need specialized education that brings specialized knowledge to all individual groups from health care professionals to law enforcement officials and beyond.
Training a New Workforce
There are brand new, fast-growing cannabis industries to support.
The range and number of careers in cannabis today is greater than most Americans realize. Earlier you read that there’s 500,000+ jobs in and around cannabis—that’s a 76% increase from cannabis jobs in 2018.
This is a fast-growing job market in which people need to be trained in ALL areas of cannabis that require specialized knowledge to operate, including:
- Banking & Finance
- Agriculture & Cultivation
- Legal & Compliance
- Manufacturing & Product Development
- Marketing & PR
- Science & Extraction
- Much more.
Colleges, universities and schools will need to get more involved in cannabis to help train and educate an entirely new workforce. Collaborating with higher ed will be a huge sector of development for cannabis education in this decade.
Ten years from now, we’ll no doubt see with a sense of surprise how much progress has been made in cannabis. The industry will become a boring, everyday topic, fully legitimized and integrated across the globe. Cannabis will improve quality of life for countless Americans, fueling the careers of millions—and we’ll be wondering: what took us so long?
Max Simon is the founder and CEO of Green Flower, the global leader in cannabis education and training.