The cannabis industry continues to expand throughout California, but higher education is behind when it comes to providing the training that students need to be successful.
Xavier Nazario, Business & Entrepreneurship Regional Director in the Bay Area, is leading an effort to demystify the industry and show faculty and administrators the potential that exists for community colleges to meet one of the state’s most critical workforce demands.
Nazario, along with Hospitality & Tourism Regional Director Audrey Le Baudour and Agriculture & Environmental Science Regional Director Fred Sconberg, recently launched the Case for Cannabis educational series, which showcases equity in the cannabis industry through podcasts and YouTube videos.
“This initiative is about one word, ‘opportunity’,” Nazario said. “There’s an opportunity for small business and entrepreneurship and an opportunity for colleges to train the workforce. Education is about five years behind the industry and we need to catch up.”
A Case for Cannabis is an idea that started with educational bus tours. Then COVID happened and the team quickly pivoted. Each podcast and video episode will focus on the diversity of opportunity while often highlighting BIPOC leaders who are impacting the industry in some way.
The Case for Cannabis is the foundation of a more robust regional grant that focuses on curriculum development, industry engagement and program implementation to ultimately connect community college students to above living wage jobs in the industry. Three additional seasons will be funded through this grant.
The first episode features a conversation with Merritt College President David M. Johnson on the importance of higher education involvement in Cannabis education and Oakland’s competitive advantage. The second episode focuses on Kika Keith, owner of cannabis brand Gorilla RX and Co-Founding Member of the Social Equity Owners and Workers Association (SEOWA), on issues of racial justice, education, entrepreneurship, and equity in the cannabis industry.
Through these efforts, Nazario hopes to show California’s 2 million community college students that they have a place in the cannabis industry and create educational pathways to stable, high-paying jobs that exist between community colleges and other sectors.
He and his partners also hope to address equity issues in the cannabis industry that are remnants from the “war on drugs” in the 1980s and 90s and increase community college enrollment by creating cannabis-focused degrees that will interest students.
“Our job is to bring workforce needs to faculty, and that’s what we’re doing here,” Nazario said. “There are no formal education pathways in the cannabis industry … now is the time to build them with community colleges taking the lead.”
A Case for Cannabis was developed by Working World LLC, with creative partners Codigos LLC and Studio 405 Live. It is funded through California’s Economic and Workforce Development program. For more information, visit case4cannabis.com/