A coalition of local elected officials, cannabis leaders, and academics is teaming up to launch an educational program that will offer scholarships, training, and mentorship to help people harmed by marijuana prohibition to find jobs in the cannabis industry.
Called the CultivatED program, the fellowship was championed by state Representative Chynah Tyler, who announced the launch of the “jail-to-jobs program” at the Cannabis World Congress & Business Exposition on Thursday.
The first fellows will be chosen during the 2019-2020 school year to participate in a pilot program at Roxbury Community College.
“I wouldn’t be here before you today if it weren’t for the academic opportunities I had as a young Boston student,” Tyler said during the announcement. “I’ve grown to know that education is in fact a guaranteeing avenue that will ensure our residents have all the tools they need to be prepared to enter the cannabis workforce.”
The people chosen for the program do not have to be students, said Roxbury Community College president Valerie Roberson, who spoke alongside Tyler in a panel during the expo at the Hynes Convention Center. They only need to have an interest in joining the cannabis workforce.
The fellows will receive full scholarships, pro bono legal services, workforce training, and externship rotations in the cannabis industry that come with college credits. They will also be placed in jobs upon completing the program.
Roberson said because the cannabis industry is so new, fellows will have an opportunity to try out jobs they may have never previously envisioned for themselves.
“How many times in your lifetime do you get to start an industry, to see an industry start?” she said. “And to give individuals from my community the opportunity to be in on the ground floor, [there are] endless possibilities.”
David Torrisi, the executive director of the Commonwealth Dispensary Association, spoke alongside Tyler and Roberson, adding the program looks to fill a hole that has not yet been completely addressed by the nascent cannabis industry.
“We recognize that there is an issue that has not been dealt with enough and that is bringing people into this industry that have been disproportionately impacted by the war on drugs,” he said.
In addition to Roxbury Community College, the program brings together a variety of public and private partners, including the Massachusetts Association of Community Colleges, Greater Boston Legal Services, and the Urban League of Eastern Massachusetts. MedMen Enterprises, a cannabis company which is looking to open a dispensary in Boston’s Fenway neighborhood and another in Newton, contributed $25,000 to the program, and several other companies with dispensaries in Massachusetts are also involved, including New England Treatment Access LLC, Sira Naturals Inc., and Garden Remedies Inc.
“The burgeoning regulated cannabis industry means access and opportunity for all,” Kim Napoli, NETA’s director of diversity programs, said in a statement. “This program creates a platform designed to ensure inclusion and participation in the cannabis industry of those individuals and communities that were negatively impacted by the devastating war on drugs.”