SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — In a Monday, November 6th proposal to the Legislature’s Medical Marijuana Oversight Committee, Southeast Technical College pitched its idea for a required medical cannabis course for South Dakota dispensary employees.
The idea has gotten mixed reviews.
“I think everybody’s excited for the opportunity for further education,” said Kittrick Jeffries of Puffy’s, a vertically integrated cannabis company based in South Dakota. “I just don’t think it should be mandated as a requirement or a prerequisite to doing some of the work that a cannabis tech would.”
Jeffries explained that at his company, they have an intensive training program for all new employees, which includes 120 hours of training and the filling out of a “Puffy’s Passport”, which goes over all the rules, laws and regulations across the industry.
“Then there’s a 90-day threshold where the director of retail operations will sign off where they can work by themselves,” said Jeffries.
Jeffries says he believes this training his employees receive gives them an edge.
“All of our budtenders are extremely knowledgeable,” Jeffries said, noting that they already go above and beyond what would be required as training within the proposed curriculum. “Cannabis is layers of an onion and understanding all the concepts and theoretical equations –it’s quite a bit of information.”
The issue as Jeffries sees it is the suggestion that all cannabis techs and budtenders be required to complete a course in order to work in the industry.
“For our company it’d be a little over 50-60% of our staff,” Jeffries said. “They had mentioned within the summer study that it would be a six-month course — the question was raised — do existing staff members get grandfathered in? If that became a mandate, you’d cease all sales at dispensaries for six months while everybody caught up.”
Were the curriculum to be put in place as an elective course, Jeffries absolutely sees benefits.
“Everybody wants the opportunity for further education,” he said. “I would suspect that especially if there were an online version that a lot of our staff would be willing to take a course like that, but to mandate it would make things a little bit difficult.”
One benefit that an elective curriculum would bring, according to Jeffries, is the opening up of the industry to further research.
“South Dakota State University’s agriculture program could look at not only their research in hemp products but also in medical marijuana,” Jeffries said. “I believe they have a pharmacology program that could look at that as well, along with the South Dakota School of Mines’ engineering program.”
Jeffries noted that a certain amount of training is already required by the state for employees in the cannabis industry. “I think that what a university could bring to the table as far as just a generalized field of studies — could bring out-of-state students who are interested in getting into the field of marijuana into South Dakota,” he said.
While a curriculum resulting in some sort of certification could also help businesses when it comes to saving money on training and hiring, Jeffries said Puffy’s will not be changing their process regardless.
“Part of the prestige of working and being trained on-site at Puffy’s is that we allow our staff to have such a centralized education process that gives us a competitive advantage over all of the other businesses in South Dakota that we have to compete with,” Jeffries explained.
Making cannabis education a mere elective could also lead more people to take the courses, even if they don’t intend to work in the industry.
“Even someone who gets a business administration degree with electorates in these types of cannabis credits would be beneficial for the industry,” Jeffries reasoned.
Overall, there are a handful of things Jeffries would like to see in any implemented curriculum.
“Looking at it from a propagation standpoint and then learning about all the tools in the toolbox at the cultivation facility — how we manage all our environmental — working our way through the manufacturing lab, the testing facility and then the retail outlets,” Jeffries listed, going on to add that he’d like to see education on different product types and their effects as well.