With the July 1 implementation of Washington’s controversial Cannabis Patient Protection Act looming, Washington officials, entrepreneurs and educators are working to ensure there will be an infrastructure in place to provide medical marijuana patients the medicine they need.
The Cannabis Patient Protection Act (SB 5052), which was designed to fold the state’s less-regulated medical marijuana market into the state-licensed recreational cannabis system, bans medical dispensaries from operating past July 1, 2016 unless they have been issued a retailer license under the state’s recreational regulations. One of the often overlooked aspects of Washington’s I-502 legalization law, however, says that budtenders in recreational stores cannot discuss with consumers any of marijuana’s potential medical benefits.
Because medical marijuana patients will soon be sourcing medicine from recreational retailers as their only legal option, regulators have begun approving educators for offering courses on medical marijuana consulting. These classes, according to the state, will qualify individuals to discuss the medical benefits and/or drawbacks of cannabis with patients. Without at least one employee who is certified as a medical marijuana consultant, cannabis retailers will not be allowed to register for offering medical cannabis.
Two institutions have had medical marijuana consulting programs approved by the state: NRG Enterprises will be offering 3-day, in-person courses — the first of which begins May 27 — and the Seattle Central College and The Academy of Cannabis Science Division of Extended Learning launched its first online course earlier this week.
Continuing education classes will be required for individuals wishing to maintain their qualification as a medical cannabis consultant.
“[Our] course costs $499 and is a 20-hour, self-paced online program that must be completed within 2 weeks,” said Kat Oak, Marketing Manager for Seattle Central College’s Center for Extended Learning. “If students have questions on the material, there will be a series of optional online Q&A sessions held by our expert instructors — covering legal, medical, ethical and horticultural considerations — but otherwise the course can be completed in their own time. Because it’s online, anyone within the state of Washington can take it.”
A new class will start every other Monday through early July, Oak told Ganjapreneur, at which time the institution will reassess demand and determine the frequency of future medical cannabis consulting courses.
“Very few people have had an opportunity for formal training when it comes to cannabis, so that’s why we’re excited,” said Trey Reckling, founder of The Academy of Cannabis Science. Reckling said that the institution has been planning its course — which is offered in conjunction with Seattle Central College — since February. Throughout the course, students will have access to top experts from Washington’s medical, legal, and horticultural spectra of modern cannabis.
The course — as per requirements from the Washington State Department of Health — will cover topics ranging from qualifying medical conditions, the effects of certain cannabinoids, the potential risks vs. benefits of certain cannabis products, state laws regarding medical marijuana, and ethics and customer confidentiality.
“We’ve really taken a lot of time to emphasize that there’s a firm line we can’t cross, and that’s practicing medicine without a license,” Reckling said. “We continue to remind our consultant students that we’re going to educate them and give them a great amount of knowledge in a 20-hour course, but at the end of the course they will not be medical professionals. They will not be pharmacists, they won’t be nurses, but they will be the most educated, qualified and recognized employees in the industry … to date.”
Reckling also said that, as the first version of what he expects will become a long road of cannabis consulting education, they will always be working to improve the course.
“We’ll be welcoming feedback from students and input … from the community,” Reckling said. “We want to show that we are contributing, we support patients’ rights … and we want to do our best to elevate the standards and expectations of what service is when you go into a recreational marijuana store.”
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