Miami Dade College Aims To Become The ‘Epicenter of Cannabis Education’

North Campus will offer a course this fall meant to teach, and destigmatize, medical marijuana

The course—Florida Cannabis Policy and Regulation—provides an overview of the state’s medicinal cannabis legislation, marijuana classification, and state and federal regulations. 

It was initially introduced as a Summer B term course, and will set the foundation for a 19-credit Biotechnology Cannabis Science Specialist certificate program. The program is in the development stages at North Campus in collaboration with the School of Justice and School of Science. 

“We’re known to start programs that prepare our students for tomorrow’s workforce,” said North Campus chemistry, physics and earth sciences department Chairperson Pablo Sacasa. “This is an industry that’s growing drastically. In Florida, there are jobs opening every day because this industry is opening new facilities in all areas—from business, marketing, science and culinary.”  

Conversation for the program began after Governor Ron DeSantis legalized smokable medical marijuana in March, two years after Florida voters approved a constitutional amendment to legalize medical marijuana.   

“Everyone was talking about the cannabis industry and what’s going on and the changes in the legislature,” said Michaela Tomova, Dean of Faculty at North Campus. “So we got together and decided that this is going to be an interdisciplinary program.”

The Florida Cannabis Policy and Regulation class—CJL2990—will be offered every Monday during the fall semester at 5:40 p.m. It will be taught by professor Ivonne Villar Duran. 

North Campus is redesigning its botany course curriculum for the fall to include marijuana plant characteristics and life cycles. The class is recommended for students that plan on taking biology of cannabis and chemistry of cannabis, which teaches the physiology of cannabis plants, oil extraction and cannabis industry techniques. Both classes are currently pending approval to begin in the spring semester. 

“The industry is telling us, ‘We need folks who know how to extract, purify, understand the techniques and are well versed in the science behind the industry’,” North Campus Associate Dean of Academic Affairs Efrain Venezuela said. “We turned this into a multi-disciplinary approach. We have biology, chemistry and criminal justice. That’s the way the entire program is going to grow.” 

Faculty stress that students will not grow marijuana as part of their program, but instead will use tomato plants or hops due to the similar plant composition. 

North Campus will also invite law, science and business professionals to speak on the cannabis industry and its future to the community as part of a speaker series.

“There is a lot of misinformation, stigma, and things that are precluding this industry from being noticed,” Venezuela said. 

The program is expected to eventually develop an associate in science degree in plant technology and feed into a new bachelor’s degree in pharmacology.

“It focuses on the term pharmacology, which has to do with bioprospecting or discovery of compounds from natural sources that have human benefits,” said North Campus biology, health and wellness department Chairperson Mark Meade

Once the certificate program is developed, it will be the first in the Florida College System. Cannabis education is typically offered in master’s or doctorate degree programs, but are rare at the associate and baccalaureate levels.  

“The goal is that Miami Dade College becomes the epicenter of cannabis education,” Venezuela said.