Doane University becomes first school in Nebraska to offer professional cannabis certificate program

Published: Aug. 12, 2019 at 12:10 PM CDT
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Doane University is set to launch a Professional Cannabis Certificate Program on DoaneX, the first of its kind offered by a university in Nebraska.

The program, titled “Cannabis Science and Industries: Seeds to Needs,” is a series of three self-paced, online courses designed by leading experts in the cannabis industry and academia with PhD and MD credentials. Courses are expected to be available on DoaneX later this fall.

"We now have the opportunity to excite our students," said Chemistry Professor Dr. Andrea Holmes. "We now have the opportunity to collaborate with the hemp industry."

Doane’s Professional Cannabis Certificate is designed to meet the interests of students who would like to enter the cannabis field, including cultivators and processors. The program also provides a foundation of knowledge for those interested in working in ancillary professions within the cannabis industry such as marketing, business, finance, and administration. The program provides comprehensive content that will be of interest to a wide audience.

Topics covered in the program include: cannabis science, wellness aspects of cannabis, cultivation and processing, regulations, safety, compliance, economic impacts and professions in the cannabis industry

The Cannabis industry is projected to become a multibillion-dollar industry in America over the next five years with an already high demand for educated professionals in agriculture, processing, wellness, and manufacturing. Doane University’s Professional Cannabis Certificate Program is designed for a diverse audience seeking to gain an in-depth understanding of this emerging industry, providing the credentials needed to enter the cannabis workforce.

After the 2018 Farm Bill legalized commercial hemp production in the United States, the pool of farmers licensed to grow hemp continues to rise at a rapid rate. According to a report in Marijuana Moment, farmers grew more than 78,000 acres of legal hemp last year, up from 26,000 acres in 2017. That number is projected to be at least 125,000 acres of hemp planted nationally in 2019.

This past May, Nebraska Governor Pete Ricketts signed the Nebraska Hemp Farming Act (LB657) into law, recognizing hemp as a viable agricultural crop, aligning state law with federal law.

"In that moment, I realized Nebraska with our expertise in agriculture and with our climate and our ability to do great rotational crops, I realized hemp is going to be an amazing rotational crop," Holmes said.

Dr. Holmes spent her sabbatical in the 2018-19 academic year in Colorado, where she worked at AgriScience Labs, a state-certified marijuana testing facility. Holmes tested consumer-facing products (marijuana flour, concentrates, edibles, topicals, etc.) for potency, residual solvents, terpenes, microbials (yeast, mold, E. coli, salmonella), pesticides, and heavy metals to ensure the products can be used safely. According to Holmes, the marijuana industry is more highly regulated than the food industry.

Holmes has become very passionate about the cannabis industry and recently co-founded Precision Plant Molecules in Colorado, which focuses on hemp extraction and non-psychotropic cannabinoids.

“We want to produce the highest quality extracts using hemp and then go into the THC-free product lines, only focusing on extracts that don’t contain the psychotropic component,” Holmes said. “We want to provide products that has a THC level undetectable or at zero.”

Holmes’ experience and knowledge in the cannabis field, combined with medical expertise from Amanda McKinney, M.D., Associate Dean of Health Sciences and Executive Director of the Institute for Human and Planetary Health at Doane, provided the foundation for building the course curriculum in the Cannabis Professional Certificate Program.

“Cannabis has been studied in-depth and much is published in medical literature on the benefits that can be provided from some of its component molecules,” says Dr. McKinney. “While not a ‘cure-all’, cannabinoids can and should be used as they are safe and efficacious for many disorders.”

Holmes adds, “Doane’s Professional Cannabis Program is based on innovation, advancement of science, cutting edge pedagogy, and the program will be expanded over time as the industry grows and federal regulations change.”

Holmes earned her doctorate degree in organic chemistry at New York University and her post-doctorate at Columbia University. Holmes has received several distinguished national honors, including the National Research Service Award from the National Institutes of Health and the National Science Foundation Presidential Early Career Award.

McKinney says people should not be afraid of cannabis or its uses.

"When you talk about the hemp plant, that's something that's been in our state forever," McKinney said. "A lot of our students come from farms and we're hoping they'll go back into agriculture and bring some of this industry back into our state."

Students say they're excited to have the opportunity to take such a unique course.

"I think Doane is definitely being a pioneer to implement these kinds of programs, especially with cannabis," said Graduate Student Andres Mora. "I think it sets us apart from other universities in the state but also across the United States as a whole."

While students can't enroll in the course just yet, Holmes says she's already excited to think about all the topics the course can cover.

"This is a huge field right now," Holmes said. "Pandora's Box has just been opened and the possibilities here are endless."

Doane’s Professional Cannabis Certificate Program courses will be found on DoaneX, which was created in January 2018 from the partnership between Doane University and edX, an industry-leading online educational platform founded by Harvard and MIT. EdX offers courses from more than 130 member institutions and a diverse group of prominent organizations from around the world.

Courses from the Professional Cannabis Certificate Program will be available for Doane faculty to use in their curriculum.