Should Your Cannabis Executives Have Marijuana Certifications?


It’s official. There is marijuana certification for every aspect of the industry, from the art of culinary edibles to zen cultivation and all the operational functions in between. Cannabis is big business in 35 states and counting for medical use, recreational pursuits, or both. That’s great news for hiring managers in businesses that want experienced workers.

For progressive cannabis companies, the challenge is to keep up with the changing regulations, navigate the ever-expanding rules and requirements and understand where the business is headed. There are so many types of certifications. When you’re looking for cannabis leaders, do they need marijuana certifications?

What Is Marijuana Certification?

There are no federal standards of education for careers in the cannabis field. And although the industry is heavily regulated, there are few certification requirements. Of course, most states require that employees be licensed. However, this is generally to ensure that they undergo a background check and fingerprinting. But beyond registration and licensing, the states have no standard training requisites.

Alaska has a requirement to complete an education course before obtaining the Marijuana Handlers Permit. Nevada requires its employees and volunteers to obtain a Marijuana Agent Card and complete company-sponsored training. Colorado has two types of licenses: employees who set operational and managerial direction and the other for employees who are not involved in such decisions. 

Some states require employees to have a medical marijuana card or cannabis certification to work in, or even have access to, the dispensaries. States have specific requirements depending on whether an employee is cultivating, manufacturing, testing, selling, transporting or managing goods. There are few commonalities between states.

The Purpose of Marijuana Certification

U.S. employers and employees alike are fond of training and education. Potential employers get a degree or some type of certification, signaling to employers that they are both serious and passionate about the field. There are a couple of universities offering four-year degrees in medicinal plant chemistry. For the most part, however, your executives will come with a career history, as well as traditional degrees in operations, finance, law, agriculture, science or maybe no degree at all.

There are certificates for almost any field for those who wish to advance or perhaps make mid-term career changes. It’s no different for cannabis. Certification courses are offered online and at training facilities throughout the U.S. These courses provide an introduction to the business and more in-depth functional training for experienced executives in the industry.

Who Offers Certification?

Some schools include:

  • Oaksterdam University: This institution is located in Oakland, California, and bills itself as America’s first cannabis college. 
  • Cannabis Training Institute: This institution offers online training and certification for businesses, entrepreneurs, clinicians and policymakers.
  • THC University: This institution offers three- to six-month online courses for growers, with an option for company memberships.
  • CloverLeaf University: This institution offers certifications in all primary certification areas, including growing, edibles, dispensaries, delivery services, law and medical marijuana.

There are many more, including a master’s program at Union Institute. However, since the field is relatively new, there are few standards and no accreditation to evaluate these programs. So how can you know whether or not these programs have real value? 

Conduct your own research to see what the certification courses entail. Examine the course description and duration. Read the course reviews. Does the institution claim any affiliations, for example, with other schools or organizations? Are there prerequisites for the course? This can help you understand how advanced the course is. 

What Does a Certificate Tell You?

A certificate may, indeed, give one candidate an edge over another. Just make sure you’re not relying too heavily on any one criteria. Successful completion of a certificate program will not tell you how well a person will perform on the job. But then, neither does a degree from a prestigious university. 

If you can’t depend on certificate programs, how do you hire for a position when there are few experienced people available? You need an outside opinion.

An executive search firm like Y Scouts is uniquely positioned to help you define and refine your search criteria. Success for your new executive is mainly dependent on finding the right skills and capabilities and identifying the right fit. No certificate will tell you whether or not your next executive will fit. A third-party (i.e., an executive search firm) can, through an objective lens, help you determine who will make the best addition to your leadership team.

How to Use Certificate Programs in Your Company

If you think a certificate program would be useful, consider doing an in-house program. That way, you can customize the content for your specific needs, allowing all management or extended team members to benefit. It’s also a great way to build pride in your company and fortify your culture. You can include the program as part of your onboarding process or perhaps offer it in a catalog of elective courses.

Contact us today to hire the best leaders in the cannabis industry!


Pamela Fay is a writer with over three decades of business writing experience. She is a graduate of the Amos Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth College and is a former international business strategy and leadership development consultant from Chicago now residing in Spain.