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Coming soon to a college in Rhode Island: Cannabis 101

The Johnson & Wales University program will combine cannabis science and business entrepreneurship

In this Aug. 15, 2019 file photo, marijuana grows at an indoor cannabis farm in Gardena, Calif.Richard Vogel/Associated Press

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Happy Wednesday and welcome to Rhode Map, your daily guide to everything happening in the Ocean State. I’m Edward Fitzpatrick and I appreciate that the R.I. Poetry Magnets set from Frog & Toad includes “6-10 Connectah,” “38 Studios,” and “Plantations.” Follow me on Twitter @FitzProv or send tips to Edward.Fitzpatrick@globe.com.

ICYMI: Rhode Island was up to 57,906 confirmed coronavirus cases on Tuesday, after adding 1,043 new cases. The overall daily test-positive rate was 9.5 percent, and the first-time positive rate was 27.2 percent. The state announced seven more deaths, bringing the total to 1,380. There were a record 410 people in the hospital.


Back in the day, I think we all went to college with some folks who appeared to major in marijuana (and perhaps minor in Doritos). But cannabis is now emerging as a serious field of study.

Starting in the fall of 2021, students will be able to earn a Bachelor of Science degree in cannabis entrepreneurship at Johnson & Wales University, which has its main campus in Providence. “The program, which spans the entire process of building a business within the cannabis industry, is the first degree program integrating cannabis science and business entrepreneurship to be offered in the Northeast,” the university announced Tuesday.

Magnus Thorsson, an associate professor of management in JWU’s College of Business, said that while the University of Massachusetts offers a course in hemp, “I do believe this is the only four-year entrepreneurship program that focuses on cannabis anywhere.”

The time is right, he said, given that legal cannabis generated $10.6 billion in revenue in 2018 and the industry is expected to produce $100 billion in revenue within a decade.


“This is a serious course of study,” Thorsson said. “We have people with Ph.D.s in biology and botany that are going to be teaching terrestrial and hydroponic growth. I have a Ph.D. in environmental sustainability, and we are going to talk about sustainability as it relates to this industry.”

The program went through a rigorous peer-reviewed process to win approval within the university, and 37 students have already applied, he said.

Thorsson noted that the rapidly expanding cannabis industry includes clothing and other products made from hemp, CBD oils and ointments, medical marijuana, and recreational marijuana. The JWU announcement comes as momentum is building to legalize recreational marijuana in Rhode Island now that state budget deficits are looming and the marijuana business is booming in neighboring Massachusetts.

The coursework will not involve handling any psychoactive compounds on campus, Thorsson said. Initially, cannabis will not be grown as part of the program; instead, students will utilize plants that have similar growth characteristics such as tomatoes, coleus, and hops.

According to the university, the program aims to brings the worlds of science, business, economics, and entrepreneurship together to evaluate the evolving landscape of the cannabis industry. Courses will include Cannabis Law & Policy, Small Cannabis Operations Business Management, and Plant Cultivation II (Hydroponics, Aquaponics, Tissue Culture, Genetic Manipulations, and Extractions).

The prohibition on marijuana is ending just as the prohibition on alcohol ended,” Thorsson said. “Professional establishments sprung up then, and they will spring up now, and they will need to be manned by trained professionals who know about standard operation procedures, about calculating margins, about developing break-even point calculations.”


In states such as California and Oregon, the cannabis industry is a professional operation with outlets that resemble Apple stores, he said, but “it’s sort of the Wild West in the East.” This program is aimed at preparing students for a future in which cannabis is big business.

For decades, JWU has been teaching people to be professional bar tenders, to recommend good wines, and to prepare food, Thorsson noted. And now, they will be preparing them to run the operations and manage the budgets of a burgeoning cannabis industry, he said.


⚓ Since retiring as Providence Equity Partners’ senior managing director, Paul J. Salem has emerged as a source of funding and expertise for a growing number of Rhode Island-based businesses, including Seven Stars Bakery, the Feast & Fettle gourmet meal delivery service, and the National Marker sign company. “Somehow, the boom of Boston doesn’t make it to Rhode Island,” Salem said. “And I think it should.” Read more.

⚓ Former Rhode Island School of Design president Roger Mandle, an internationally renowned art scholar, has died, RISD said Tuesday. Read more.

⚓ Providence City Councilwoman Mary Kay Harris, one of the biggest crusaders for police reform, talked to my colleague Amanda Milkovits about her life of activism, offering advice to a new generation seeking change. Read more.


⚓ Rhode Island ranks 37th in the nation in the 2021 Business Tax Climate Index -- up two spots from the prior year, according to the Rhode Island Public Expenditure Council. But the business-backed group is urging state leaders to resist proposals to increase individual income tax rates for high-wage earners, saying Rhode Island ranks 29th in individual income taxes -- making it “considerably less competitive than Massachusetts (ranked 11th).” Read more.


Race: Nneka Nwosu Faison, who is now executive producer of the newsmagazine “Chronicle” on WCVB-TV and who once worked at WPRI-TV in Rhode Island, talks about the challenges she faced as a Black TV reporter in New England and the pressure she still feels not to do anything that would make people doubt her. Read more.

Obelisks: If you’re like me, you cannot read enough about the 10-foot-tall metal obelisk found in the desert in southern Utah. The Globe’s Mark Shanahan says that while it has some people thinking “2001: A Space Odyssey,” he’s thinking, “The Simpsons.” Read more.

Sports: After a miserable Boston Red Sox season, the Globe’s Peter Abraham gives us a reason to get excited in describing the deep pool of talent the team could dip into going forward. Read more.

Politics: Georgia’s voting system manager denounced the threats of violence that officials have received as the state’s second presidential recount continued Tuesday, pleading with President Trump to “stop inspiring people to commit potential acts of violence.” Read more.



Each day, Rhode Map offers a cheat sheet breaking down what’s happening in Rhode Island. Have an idea? E-mail us at RInews@globe.com.

BIRTHDAYS: Rhode Map readers, if you want a friend or family member to be recognized on Friday, send me an e-mail with their first and last name, and their age.

⚓ The newly formed House task force on COVID-19 vaccine distribution will meet at 3 p.m. House Speaker-nominee K. Joseph Shekarchi announced the task force last week, naming Representative Raymond A. Hull as chairman. Dr. Michael Fine, chief health strategist for Central Falls and a former state Health Department director, will speak to the task force during today’s meeting, which will be live-streamed at http://www.rilegislature.gov/CapTV/Pages/default.aspx.

⚓ US Representative David N. Cicilline, chairman of the House Antitrust Subcommittee, will co-host the fourth meeting of the International Grand Committee on Disinformation at 9:30 a.m.

Salve Regina University and OSHEAN will host a virtual cybersecurity panel discussion at 2 p.m. The panel will include chief information officers from Rhode Island colleges and cybersecurity experts. Register here.

⚓ If you are looking to get in the holiday spirit, drive over to Santa’s Magical Drive-Thru Christmas Display and Musical Light Show at 106 Ted Rod Rd. in Exeter, day or night. I can tell you the display includes about 110 inflatable decorations, including Frosty, the Grinch, and the Abominable Snowman. Donations are accepted for the Gloria Gemma Breast Cancer Resource Foundation.

⚓ Do you ❤ Rhode Map? Your subscription is what makes it possible. We’ve got a great offer here.

Edward Fitzpatrick can be reached at edward.fitzpatrick@globe.com. Follow him @FitzProv.