NEW YORK — Brooklyn’s historic Medgar Evers College (MEC), celebrating over five decades of advancing knowledge, social justice, and excellence, becomes the first City University of New York (CUNY) campus to offer a cannabis minor degree program.
Students can now enroll in “Introduction to the World of Cannabis,” a prerequisite course for many of the other cannabis courses in this degree program. In following semesters, students can choose four courses from any of the 13 newly developed courses to earn a cannabis degree minor in one of four different tracks. These courses provide educational opportunities not only to MEC students but to all students at the other 24 CUNY campuses via e-permits.
Exemplifying its core mission to provide educational workforce development and opportunities for economic expansion, MEC’s cannabis minor and forthcoming adult education program will feature the skill-building instructional support needed to foster new cannabis leaders in the areas of testing, cultivation, business, and health.
“As a botanist, I’m particularly pleased to see that the institution that I’ve been selected to lead is on the cutting edge of providing educational opportunities to learn about the many beneficial uses of plants such as cannabis and to provide the training necessary for our students to be able to compete for burgeoning opportunities in this new industry. Education is a key step in raising awareness of the non-recreational benefits of plants such as cannabis. Oftentimes, communities of color are the last to benefit from emerging economic opportunities. The science faculty and the business faculty collaborated in developing the minor in cannabis education; thus, exposing the students to the science, health, technical and business aspects of this new industry,” said Dr. Patricia Ramsey, president of Medgar Evers College.
Coinciding with New York State’s recent adult-use cannabis legalization, the program seeks to engage degree and non-degree students, faculty and staff, advocacy groups, and community members, including the formerly incarcerated and those transitioning from the legacy market.
The program can serve as a resource for policy-makers through its diverse instructors and partnerships and support with organizations, multi-state operators, and state license holders including the cannabis leadership organization Women Grow, the iconic Cookies cannabis brand, the Webber Wild Impact Fund led by five-time NBA All-Star, 2021 Basketball Hall of Fame Chris Webber, medical dispensary giant Columbia Care, influential Cannabis Advisory Group, and NYC community-focused foundation Gotham Gives.
“The significance of a cannabis minor at Medgar Evers College is not lost upon those familiar with the legacy of its namesake who fought for civil rights. We believe this program and future cannabis programs at MEC will serve as a model for other institutions of higher learning that can respond to socio-economic shifts through programming centered on community needs. Too often, colleges located in neighborhoods that once served as the battlegrounds in the failed war on drugs, are denied access to pivotal opportunities. MEC’s program speaks to those needs and we applaud their action. As an emerging industry we must continue to work together in partnership to provide the necessary resources and access for Black and Brown communities,” said Gia Morón, president of Women Grow.
“Education will play a critical role in driving social equity within the cannabis industry. As the fastest growing industry in the U.S., it is full of opportunity, and a skilled workforce was needed yesterday. It’s a shame that universities have shied away from teaching the skills necessary for success. We are so proud of MEC for being a leader in this effort. We hope their bravery and hard work will blaze a trail for other institutions to follow. The work MEC is doing is very aligned with Cookies U, and we hope to partner with them on this meaningful initiative,” said Berner, visionary co-founder and CEO of Cookies.
“As a Brooklyn neighbor, Columbia Care is delighted to see MEC’s enthusiastic embrace of the opportunity cannabis normalization can bring to New Yorkers. MEC’s long history of service and outreach will ensure the social equity priorities can actually be realized for the communities most impacted by prohibition,” said Ngiste Abebe, vice president of public policy at Columbia Care.
“Medgar Evers College has designed a truly comprehensive academic, entrepreneurial and community-oriented program to address the future of the legal cannabis marketplace. Most importantly, Medgar Evers has embodied the moral imperative that a legal cannabis market and industry include measures that provide restorative justice to communities that have been marginalized and abused by nearly a century of cannabis prohibition. Medgar Evers is pioneering an approach to developing the cannabis industry from within the community to further empower and provide a potent voice for the community. I’m delighted and in awe of the countless hours of selfless work that has resulted in this elegant, powerful, and thoroughly needed template for the future of cannabis education and empowerment in New York and beyond,” said Hugh O’Beirne, co-founder and director of the Cannabis Advisory Group.“Our foundation, Gotham Gives, is committed to doing right for the people who have been affected by over 50 years of bad drug policies. Education is the most important initiative needed to achieve a measure of social justice. MEC’s comprehensive education, entrepreneurship, and advocacy program is exactly what is needed to prepare community members for success in the ever-growing cannabis field. The graduates of these programs will enter the cannabis industry at multiple levels. We are thrilled to support MEC for being a visionary in this field, creating a cannabis curriculum in an industry that will have a major impact on our economy in the decades to come,” said Joanne Wilson, co-founder of Gotham Gives.
The program was spearheaded by the MEC Cannabis Education Taskforce and is housed in the Department of Chemistry and Environmental Science. The taskforce consists of four members, two faculty and two alumni. The faculty leads are Dr. Alicia Reid, chair of the Chemistry and Environmental Sciences department, and Dr. Micah Crump, professor of Business and Entrepreneurship. Alumni Vikiana Clement, a corporate software engineer, and entrepreneur, and Joel Strothers, a civil and environmental engineering Ph.D. student at Princeton University, round out the team.
“The central tenet of this entire program is to achieve targeted outcomes that will elevate a community that has been sidelined, blocked out, stifled, alienated, and even forgotten because of the devastating and adverse impact of the U.S.’s historical war on drugs and associated cannabis policies,” said Dr. Alicia Reid.
Echoing the program’s central tenet, cannabis legacy guru Branson said, “For the cannabis industry to be truly equitable black and brown community members require substantial cannabis education and pipeline opportunities. I am extremely pleased that MEC has taken into consideration all aspects of the cannabis industry towards developing a holistic program that will facilitate much-needed social equity gains in the cannabis space.” MEC will tap into diverse experts throughout the cannabis space to serve as instructors.
Michael Zaytsev, the author of The Cannabis Business Book and founder of influential New York City cannabis education and networking community High NY, will lead its introductory foundational course, “Introduction to the World of Cannabis.”
This course is designed to reveal the intersectional nature of cannabis and examine the challenges and opportunities associated with institutional cannabis reform. “Whether you’re passionate about art, business, climate change, criminal justice reform, healthcare, or even pop culture, cannabis significantly impacts all of the above and more. Because of the breadth of the course, I will recruit some of my ‘friends in high places’ to guest lecture on topics where they have world-class subject matter expertise,” said Zaytsev.
Zaytsev’s friends include cannabis entrepreneur, author, and activist Steve DeAngelo, who will be one of an array of guest lecturers lending their expertise to the program. “The legal cannabis industry is New York City’s most promising economic development opportunity. It will employ tens of thousands of people and generate hundreds of millions of dollars of tax revenue. So the entire City and the whole industry should be grateful to the courageous folks at the MEC Cannabis Education Task Force for being ahead of the curve–for having the foresight to create the mechanism that will provide this new workforce and industry with the skills it will need to rise to its full potential,” said DeAngelo.
Cannabis cultivation and laboratory sciences will be a focus of subsequent classes offered at MEC, including those led by Damian Fagon, founder of the Hudson Valley’s Gullybean Farm, one of a handful of Black-owned farms in the U.S. and one of the few farms cultivating hemp.
“In theory, the New York Marijuana Regulation & Taxation Act (MRTA) has the framework to create one of the most progressive and equitable legal cannabis industries in the country. But the State’s best-laid plans come with the caveat that would-be cannabis entrepreneurs of color will be asked to compete directly with groups who have had police-free access to develop and study cannabis production models for the better part of the last decade. MEC’s cannabis program represents a crucial step in equipping our communities with the academic toolkit to navigate the myriad of opportunities presented under legalization. I’m grateful to play a small role in this effort and to empower the next generation of New York’s premier cannabis horticulturalists and entrepreneurs,” said Fagon.
MEC is located next to the site of Ebbets Field, the legendary home of the Brooklyn Dodgers. The college was founded in 1970 in honor of Medgar Wiley Evers, the American civil rights activist, and Mississippi state field secretary for the NAACP. Widely considered the PBI of the CUNY system, MEC is a fitting tribute to Medgar Evers’ work to end segregation and advance voting rights. About Medgar Evers College Located in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, Medgar Evers College offers both associate and baccalaureate degrees. A senior college within the City University of New York (CUNY) system, Medgar Evers College was established in 1970 with a mandate to meet the educational and social needs of the Central Brooklyn community. In its commitment to providing students with a sound academic foundation as well as an opportunity for personal development, Medgar Evers College offers high-quality, professional, career-oriented degree programs within the context of a liberal arts education. For more information on Medgar Evers College, visit www.mec.cuny.edu.