Partners offering social equity scholarships to cannabis workers

Higher Learning Institutions is Michigan’s first licensed vocational and technical school for cannabis. Courtesy Higher Learning Institutions

Two Michigan cannabis companies are partnering with a school to create a social equity scholarship program for 20-plus adults in the cannabis industry.

Boulder, Colorado-based Terrapin, a cannabis grower and processor with operations in Grand Rapids, is teaming up with Troy-based JARS Cannabis, an operator of licensed retail dispensaries, to fund the first cohort of a new scholarship program.

The cannabis companies united to partner with Higher Learning Institutions, Michigan’s first licensed vocational and technical school for cannabis, to offer a yearlong professional development program for minority entrepreneurs and professionals called the Cannabis Community Social Equity Scholarship (CCSE).

“The war on drugs disproportionately affected many groups and communities in Michigan,” said Terrapin CEO Chris Woods. “We feel a responsibility to help right those wrongs and create pathways into the legal cannabis industry for those who were targeted the most.”

Anyone interested in gaining the technical knowledge to build a cannabusiness or career can apply, but the CCSE scholarship will be focused on social equity applicants, or those who reside in disproportionately impacted communities and have plans to operate a marijuana establishment there; those who have marijuana-related convictions; or people who have been registered as primary caregivers in Michigan.

Prior to establishing the CCSE scholarship, Terrapin started working with Higher Learning Institutions by providing tours and learning opportunities for students at their Grand Rapids growing and processing facility.

“Let me tell you; it inspired them all,” said Sammie Rogers, Higher Learning Institutions director. “They all got to see the work, detail and dedication it takes to build a facility like that, along with setting realistic expectations on funding it. It’s one thing to sit in a class and see pictures and videos of these facilities, but it’s another to visit one. They saw how the things we are learning in class are on par with what’s really happening in the industry, so it made their trust in the program even stronger.”

Higher Learning Institutions opened in February 2020 in Pontiac and has graduated 100 students. The 20 social equity scholarship recipients will undergo an accelerated program that includes education on cultivation, extraction, cannabis consultation (known as budtending) and business affairs such as applying for licensing. The program also will include experiences such as facility tours, guest lecture seminars and one-on-one mentorship meetings with industry professionals.

Terrapin has invited other cannabis companies to join efforts with Higher Learning Institutions so additional scholarships can be offered. When HLI announced the program internally on Feb. 8, it immediately received word from over a dozen individuals. In addition to pledging funds to expand the CCSE scholarship, JARS Cannabis also will offer a general admissions scholarship to cover the cost of individual courses, including cannabis consultation, cultivation and extraction. The scholarship also will facilitate professional development and career opportunities for Higher Learning Institutions’ students.

“We seek to empower individuals who are eager to work in this growing industry and feel confident that this new partnership program will cultivate professional opportunities that will allow those who have been disproportionately affected by the marijuana prohibition to do so,” said Niccole Milton, director of social equity and community involvement at JARS Cannabis.

Applications are live online.

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