Looking to grow in a pot? A CT college program can teach you how

Christopher J. Tuccio has seen students graduate from his horticulture program and pursue careers in medical marijuana dispensaries in Connecticut or recreational dispensaries in Massachusetts.

Now, students at Naugatuck Valley Community College can take a course that teaches them how to grow marijuana plants.

The college joins a number of higher education institutions in the state, including UConn, offering courses related to cannabis.

“We kind of gave them plant growing skills and they have to adapt to the job,” said Tuccio, horticulture program coordinator and horticulture professor in the community college’s STEM division. “Now that’s really useful. We can train them specifically for the jobs that are out there, which is a lot right now. “

Called Horticulture of Cannabis, the course is the same one offered at Quinebaug Valley Community College in Danielson, which started offering a cannabis studies program last year.

“Really, the course teaches everything from soil nutrition and plant nutrition to identifying pests and then growing the cannabis plant itself and then harvesting,” said Tuccio. “It’s kind of an A to Z approach.

A few licensed grow operations approached the horticulture program about a partnership in 2013, after the state approved medical marijuana, Tucci said. But the college resisted because the stigma against pot was greater, he said.

Since then, UConn and Quinebaug have offered classes related to state-legalized marijuana and recreational use. Retail sales are expected to start at the end of next year.

Other cannabis courses

UConn launched the country’s first university course on the fundamentals of cannabis horticulture in 2019 and this summer began offering online courses in basic and advanced cannabis cultivation to the public. UConn said he wanted the general public to have access to the industry’s financial opportunities.

Gerald “Gerry” Berkowitz, professor of plant science at UConn’s College of Agriculture, Health and Natural Resources, has helped develop the university’s courses and industry partnerships.

“Our students see career potential and want to gain experience,” he told UConn in the spring when the courses were announced. “Companies need highly skilled scientists to support the growth of this industry, and they are looking for talented graduates to join their workforce. By offering more and more targeted courses, we can help both groups. It’s a win-win.

Eastern Connecticut State University at Willimantic will begin offering a minor in hemp cultivation in the fall and may expand the program as an interdisciplinary major in the future. Students will focus on hemp plants, not marijuana, which has higher levels of THC, the compound that makes users high.

Since Naugatuck Valley Community College announced its course, medical dispensaries and the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station in New Haven have contacted Tuccio about tours or guest speakers. Law firms are interested in the legal elements, he said.

“Right now, we’re on the ground floor of industry in the state,” Tuccio said. “Over the past couple of years we’ve seen our neighbors, like, say, Massachusetts, take an interest in it, and it’s really helpful for our students to have a competency designation on their resumes specifically for culture. and cannabis cultivation operations, so they can sell to those growers.

On average, 60 to 70 students complete the horticulture program at Naugatuck Valley Community College, which has a main campus in Waterbury and another campus in Danbury. About 20% are transferred to the UConn program.

“A lot of them are going straight to the pitch,” Tuccio said.

Focus on science

The course is one of the electives that students in the horticulture program can take. It is intended only for students of horticulture. While there are no prerequisites, students are recommended to take a greenhouse class before or during this class, Tuccio said.

“We need to be careful within the community college system and our campuses as we have a vulnerable population of young students whom we want to make sure we maintain the integrity of the academic process and the scientific engagement of the program,” he said. he declared. . “It is very important for us to always see it through this lens. This is a horticultural science class, and it’s supposed to be done that way.

On Tuesday afternoon, 19 students registered, he said. There is room for 24 students. The course is offered as a pilot and is completely online.

Tuccio said he sees a lot of potential in the industry. If the course is successful, the college may consider creating a cannabis certificate similar to Quinebaug’s or offering specialty certificates in other areas of horticulture.

“I don’t want to give the image that this is some sort of magic plant that’s going to kind of heal everything with tax dollars and people’s jobs and so on,” he said. “But it’s going to give a lot of people a lot of good job opportunities.”

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