Dutchess Community College (DCC) in Poughkeepsie, New York, has recognized the first cohort of students who completed its Cannabis Retail Management microcredential program. The program, which launched in fall 2023, is designed to prepare students for leadership roles in the emerging cannabis industry.
DCC’s Cannabis Retail Management Program: A Pioneer in New York
The Cannabis Retail Management program at DCC is one of the first of its kind in New York, which legalized adult-use cannabis in March 2023. The program was developed in collaboration with the Hudson Valley Education + Workforce Consortium (HVE+WC), a group of six community colleges led by SUNY Orange, which received a three-year $1 million grant from SUNY to create cannabis-related course offerings.
The program consists of four courses that cover topics such as plant science, customer service, business management, compliance, and ethics. The courses are taught by DCC faculty members Professor Mark Condon (Biology) and Assistant Professor Maureen Gittelman (Hospitality & Tourism), who worked with local industry professionals and the Consortium to design the curriculum.
The program also provides students with opportunities to network with cannabis industry experts, employers, and entrepreneurs, as well as to participate in field trips, internships, and experiential learning activities.
Meet the First Graduates of the Program
Sixteen students, with diverse backgrounds and interests, completed the program and were honored at an end-of-semester ceremony held on December 13, 2023, on the College’s main campus. Some of the graduates shared their stories and motivations for enrolling in the program.
- Angela and Stephanie Barone are a mother- and daughter-in-law duo who ran Hyde Park Brewing Company for 27 years and received their adult-use cannabis license in April 2023. They enrolled in the program to gain more knowledge and skills for opening their own dispensary. “We want to be on the cutting edge and know the most up-to-date information,” Angela said. “We also thought about how this certification from Dutchess could help us build our workforce.”
- Timothy Mazyck is a 59-year-old student with more than 25 years of customer service and entrepreneurial experience. He described the program as “fun and enlightening” and said he learned a lot from the instructors and his classmates. “Everyone in class gets along and comes together in a supportive community. I have 15 new friends who’ll all be involved in different aspects of the cannabis industry,” he said.
- Samantha Smith is a 22-year-old student who graduated from DCC with an associate degree in business administration in May 2023. She decided to continue her education at DCC and pursue the cannabis retail management program because of her passion for the plant and its benefits. “I’ve seen how cannabis can help people with different medical conditions, including my own mother who has multiple sclerosis. I want to be part of this industry and make a positive impact on people’s lives,” she said.
What’s Next for the Program and the Industry
DCC President Dr. Peter Grant Jordan congratulated the graduates and praised the faculty and staff for creating and delivering the program. He also expressed his optimism for the future of the cannabis industry in New York and the role of DCC in preparing the workforce. “New York’s cannabis market is expected to generate $4 billion over the next five years, despite the slow rollout. This is a significant opportunity for our state, our region, and our college. We are proud to be at the forefront of cannabis education and training, and we look forward to continuing to offer this program and other cannabis-related courses in the future,” he said.
Johnny LeHane, co-founder and chief operating officer of Trimmr, a cannabis software company, was one of the guest speakers at the ceremony. He welcomed the graduates to the industry and encouraged them to pursue their goals and dreams. “You are the pioneers and the leaders of this new and exciting industry. You have the knowledge, the skills, and the network to succeed. You also have the responsibility to shape the industry in a way that is ethical, sustainable, and inclusive. I wish you all the best and I hope to see you soon in the cannabis community,” he said.
The Cannabis Retail Management program at DCC is open to anyone who is interested in learning more about the cannabis industry and its career opportunities. The program is offered in a hybrid format, with online and in-person classes, and can be completed in one semester. The next cohort will start in spring 2024, and applications are now being accepted.