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Education Programs for Retail Staff

A positive sign of legal cannabis permeating the fabric of our national culture is seeing programs and courses crop up at accredited educational institutions that provide curriculum for the entire supply chain.

Those interested in a career in cannabis now have multiple ways to gain and verify their knowledge through diplomas, certificates, and micro credentials, both in-person and online.

Alongside these programs, some dedicated practitioners with long-time industry experience have created peer-to-peer training programs specifically aimed at the retail market. Their goal is to improve the consumer experience through cultivating budtender and staff knowledge.

Technology Changes Learning

Teaching and learning have moved away from the traditional classroom information-dissemination model, as technology has allowed cannabis education to be accessed through phones or tablets.

Modern education programs leave room for different learning styles and neurodivergent minds, recognizing that there’s no one-size-fits-all for how people take in and apply information.

We’ve gathered some community and educational institution-based cannabis education programs for people working in cannabis retail.

Cannabis Community-Based Programs & Resources

These are a few course creators who are taking cannabis education outside the four walls of the classroom, through software, apps, and e-learning.

Based in Vancouver but providing education across the world, CannaReps has trained over 1,500 people worldwide through their Cannabis Sommelier™ course, covering topics such as cannabis product knowledge, science, history, culture, safe-use guidelines, and compliance. The Cannabis Sommelier™ Level 1 and Level 2 courses are offered both in-person and online, for individuals or teams.

The company was founded by Adolfo Gonzalez who has two decades of experience as a grower, community organizer, researcher, and consultant in the cannabis industry. Julie Domingo is the CEO and principal and adds her experience as an Apple expert trainer and as an industry pioneer, who obtained the first cannabis compassion club business license in Canada.

Described as the “cannabis business plan boot camp”, the company will also be offering a 3-day Dispensary Management Program, with its wait list currently open.

Cannabis Training Canada (CTC)
Having trained over 4,000 retail staff across Canada, CTC’s online courses and custom training programs help build product knowledge in a regulated environment. “We employed the help of adult learning specialists to ensure that no matter the age or starting point of a user, training would be effective,” describes Zane Yassein, CTC’s co-founder.

“This resulted in the addition of a variety of learning options throughout the training. We utilize video, graphic, interactive learning, and reading comprehension to appeal to all learning types,” says Yassein. CTC’s website offers an online Retail Certification Program and an Advanced Product Knowledge course.

“Our platform is unique in that we created it entirely from scratch,” notes Yassein. “We have a software engineer on our team, which allowed us to tailor our platform specifically for the cannabis industry. It also allows us to add features that our partners are looking for.”

Offering in-person and e-learning courses, LevelUP teaches budtenders in-depth cannabis knowledge, excellent customer service, and proven sales methodologies. “All three aspects are vital in increasing spend and basket size among cannabis customers,” says creator Tabitha Fritz. “When budtenders have the right training, they make the right recommendations and increase sales across the board.”

Her experience teaching various ages and literacy levels allowed Fritz to understand various learner needs. “I designed LevelUP with an eye on maintaining the learner’s focus and assimilating the information we teach them. I am very aware of and sensitive to how difficult it can be for neurodivergent learners to take in information,” says Fritz.

“Tabitha has an amazing way of explaining the process of cannabis. Awesome for someone with ADHD,” notes a course participant. To assist with financial access, LevelUP offers payment plans for the e-learning component.

“The training methods of yesteryear won’t engage today’s learner,” says Chris Snoyer, Founder and CEO of Spiffy. “Long-form training seminars and 30-page manuals are being replaced with quick hits of content.”

Spiffy is described by Snoyer as an “Instagram-style budtender training app” where the “need-to-know info should be at the fingertips of retail employees so they can learn on their own terms.” Retail staff can access a catalogue of ready-to-go product knowledge modules for the brands and products they carry in-store.

“In an industry where a consumer’s first experience could also be their last, it’s incredibly important to have knowledgeable budtenders who can confidently recommend products that will suit a consumer’s needs,” notes Snoyer. Through partnerships with licensed producers (LPs), Spiffy offers a library of premade learning modules available for free on the app.

The Different Collective
In collaboration with Urbanistic, up-and-coming industry thought leaders The Different Collective (TDC) has newly launched their in-person Cannabis Microscopy Course into the online realm.

This unique course, designed by Thomas Rothmeier and Francis Hall, helps retail staff determine cannabis quality through trichome evaluation. Participants learn the connection between visually inspecting trichomes and product quality, while learning how to identify undesirables, such as insects and molds to protect consumers and provide feedback to LPs. It is designed with multi-sensory educational content for those who learn best by reading, watching, or doing. Participants receive a free digital handheld microscope with the course.

Cannabis Retail Programs at Educational Institutions

While the availability of courses and programs have changed over time, multiple accredited higher learning institutions have added cannabis to their course calendars.

Whether they’re micro credentials, digital badges, single courses, or continuing education certificates, here are some educational institutions that offer options relevant to the retail sector:

Micro credentials for Cannabis Retail: Olds College of Agriculture & Technology
Students of the Micro Credentials for Cannabis Retail program can earn four digital badges to verify their knowledge of cannabis retail through an online, self-directed format. Courses within each badge can be taken separately or can be put towards the micro credential badge. Courses include “Terpenes and Variations in Effects” and “Optimal Dosing”.

Cannabis Industry Studies Certificate: Seneca Part-Time Studies
Offering online, hybrid, and in-person formats, Seneca’s certificate program is a series of seven courses spanning cannabis fundamentals, health and wellness, the Canadian legal and regulatory system, customer experience, and retail sales.

Cannabis Education Program: Mount Royal University (MPU)
Offering four courses, two of which are Cannabis Marketing in the Retail Sector and Retail Cannabis Management, MRU’s online courses focus on best practices and regulatory compliance. Participants can earn a digital badge to verify their knowledge.

Cannabis – Operations, Quality and Edibles Certificate: Academy of Applied Pharmaceutical Sciences (AAPS)
While focused mainly on regulations, quality assurance principles, cultivation, laboratory, and extraction techniques, AAPS’ Online Certificate or Post-Graduate Certificate on Cannabis program includes a Cannabis Retail Management course covering fundamentals of cannabis retail licensing and operations.

Legalization of Cannabis in Canada: Durham College
While it’s not currently offering its Cannabis Industry Specialization program, Durham College’s 7-week online course examines various issues and factors surrounding legal cannabis in Canada, including its history, laws, and regulations. It also explores the emerging and dynamic infrastructure surrounding its legal recreational use across the country.

The Science of Cannabis: McMaster University Continuing Education
With courses being offered this Spring, this certificate program has three courses: Fundamentals of Cannabis Science, Therapeutic Applications of Cannabis, and Risks and Harms of Cannabis. This program is designed to prepare students to be critical thinkers about medicinal and recreational cannabis.

Finding the Best Cannabis Education Program for Retailers

Cannabis education in Canada has come a long way since 2018, offering budtenders, managers, and other staff unique options to increase their cannabis knowledge.

Those looking to enroll in these programs should take into account the style of information delivery, the pace of the program or course, course fees and available payment options, past student reviews, qualifications of instructors, and whether they align with their career goals. The better educated store staff are, the better service they will provide to your customers, so invest in your employee’s education.

Tags: Academy of Applied Pharmaceutical Sciences (2), cannabis education (22), Cannabis Training Canada (2), CannaReps (3), Durham College (1), LevelUP (1), McMaster University Continuing Education (1), Mount Royal University (1), Olds College of Agriculture & Technology (1), Seneca College (1), Spiffy (1), The Different Collective (1)