Don Le, director of the Medical Marijuana Institute, and institute staff recently established the 502 Foundation, an organization designed to support members of the cannabis industry.
Based in Lynwood, the MMJ Institute provides medical marijuana education to growers, processors, budtenders, and anyone else wanting to learn about the industry. Education is provided by a diverse group of faculty that includes physicians, attorneys and cannabis industry veterans.
More than 1,000 budtenders have received continuing education and certification as medical marijuana consultants. Washington Department of Health contracts with the institute to teach students accurate information.
Prior to 2016, some employees of medical dispensaries were asked to receive a medical endorsement from the state. When medical and recreational systems merged, retailers could decide if they want to be registered as providing medical-grade product and consulting or focusing on general adult-use.
“Unfortunately recreational has spilled over into medical,” Le said. He said there just isn’t enough medical product for patients who are in severe pain, such as cancer patients.
With the foundation, Le hopes to improve access for anyone who wants to increase their education.
The main course costs $379, but not everyone could afford this. But the offer of a scholarship might make it easier for someone to access this info, such as a budtender making minimum wage, or someone who had been incarcerated for a marijuana-related offense and has experienced difficulty finding work due to their criminal record.
Le encourages veterans, disabled, people of color, women and others to consider seeking this knowledge.
“The cannabis industry is rewriting the rules for social equity to facilitate supporting these groups of marginalized people,” Le said. He hopes to see some legislation to support these groups, but doesn’t expect big changes anytime soon.
One recent graduate of a 20-hour training program is Nebyou Guetaneh. His goal is to launch his own CBD company this fall. He’d like to send out sample sizes of various CBD products to those who subscribe, sort of like a wine-of-the-month club, so consumers can figure out what products they prefer.
Guetaneh took the training to become more educated on the effects of medical marijuana and the benefits of CBDs. He moved from New York to the Seattle area to learn more about the business. He said
the institute’s course helped him understand how different strains and ratios of CBD and THC affect the human body.
Overall, he thought the program was beneficial, particularly the legal aspects. One student in his class was a traditional physician who wanted to learn more about medical marijuana after hearing questions from patients, plus a mental health professional who wanted to learn more about cannabinoids.
Guetaneh said that anyone interested in the MMJ business should take a course.
Current instructors include Dr. Venessa Wahler N.D., Dr. Katrina liams-Hauser ND, Dr. Xochitl Palomino ND and attorney Henry Chae JD.
Le had been planning to invite past students to an “alumni party” and a 502 Foundation scholarship fundraiser April 18, featuring a cannabis knowledge competition with a $5,000 prize for the grand champion. But the event was postponed until further notice due to COVID-19. For more info about the MMJ visit mmjinstitute.org/. A separate site is in the works for the 502 Foundation.
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