Dalton: Medical cannabis information program

A cannabis flower grows under grow lamps at Berkshire Roots, Pittsfield’s first cannabis growing facility and dispensary.

PITTSFIELD — Cannabis careers are on the rise, and now Berkshire Community College wants to educate those seeking jobs in the field.

The college is preparing to launch a one-year cannabis certificate program during the upcoming fall semester. The certificate program still must be approved by the state's Department of Higher Education, but college leaders say interested students can start immediately in September with required courses.

Through the new program, college leaders aim to give students skills in the areas of cannabis cultivation, processing, retail and outreach. Voters approved recreational cannabis in 2016, and the first retailers rolled out this year.

BCC is working closely with one such company, Berkshire Roots, to develop the 18-credit program.

"Berkshire Roots had come to us and had indicated a need," said Christina Wynn, BCC's dean of enrollment management.

The college will host two information sessions about the new program. One will be held at 1 p.m. Thursday, and another will be held at 6 p.m. Monday, both in Melville Room 317. There, prospective students will be able to enroll and learn more about financial aid opportunities.

More than a dozen prospective students signed up for the sessions within 24 hours of the college's announcement Tuesday, Wynn said.

"There's clearly interest on the student side," she said.

Related coursework available over the fall semester includes a biopsychology course on the brain and behavior, a business fundamentals course and an introductory course on interpersonal communication. Students have until the first day of classes Sept. 3 to enroll.

The college is working with Berkshire Roots to develop two courses for students to take during the spring semester — one focused on cannabis specifically and another on horticulture.

Participating students must turn 21 by next summer, when they'll undergo onsite training at Berkshire Roots.

Maya Richards, training and outreach manager for Berkshire Roots, said the company grows, processes and sells all of its products from under its Dalton Avenue roof, so that presents an opportunity to show students each level of the burgeoning industry.

"We think there's enormous potential for the cannabis industry in the Berkshires," she said.

The company plans to offer participating students five to 10 hours per week of rotating training.

"They would get full exposure to all the areas that we have operational at the dispensary," she said.

Berkshire Roots also plans to cover the cost of each student's agent identification card, which, she said, costs $550 each.

Students can use the certificate to land gigs like assistant grower, cannabis consultant, cannabis retail manager, infusion manufacturing associate, patient advocate and production technician.

Those interested in enrolling in the cannabis certificate program can visit the college's website. They also can contact George Ambriz and Frank Schickor at gambriz@berkshirecc.edu and fschicko@berkshirecc.edu, respectively, or by calling them at 413- 236-1625 or 413-236-2105.

Amanda Drane can be contacted at adrane@berkshireeagle.com, @amandadrane on Twitter, and 413-496-6296.