MAYFIELD, Pa. -- A college in our area has announced a new program meant to train students interested in careers in the cannabis industry.
The program instructors say it will prepare students for the jobs that will come if and when recreational marijuana becomes legal in Pennsylvania.
Michael Pappalardo showed us around his lab in Mayfield where his company Agrihemp is turning CBD oil into a powder for caplets and tablets.
Soon, he'll share this space at the NEET Center with students from Lackawanna College who are enrolled in a new cannabis business development certificate program. They'll grow hemp, research it, and learn about the growing industry of CBD, an oil derived from cannabis but without the psychoactive effects.
Pappalardo says the same skills could be used in medical marijuana production or potentially a legal recreational marijuana industry.
"The THC world and the CBD world really rely on the same technology; what's good for one is good for the other. A botanical extract is a botanical extract. I can process that whether it be avocado oil or CBD more or less the same way, so the skills that are developed through the program would transfer very perfectly, actually, to overlay onto the THC world," Pappalardo said.
Students can study with Pappalardo starting next month. He says Lackawanna College has already attracted students from all different disciplines.
"They can't just leave the area. That doesn't do us much good. We would like to retain them and have them stay, so the idea here is to provide a couple of dozen decent jobs for people who come through the program."
The medical marijuana industry is already in full swing in northeastern Pennsylvania, but employees at Justice Grown, a dispensary in Dickson City, say it's been mostly on-the-job training.
Pharmacist Cheryl Wilson says Lackawanna's certificate program could be a huge help.
"Research is needed. Education is needed. There's so many stigmas and misconceptions and miseducation out there. To have a structured kind of certificate program is just phenomenal. It's phenomenal," Wilson said.
The Cannabis Business Development certificate program at Lackawanna College is open to students as well as people in the community.