Oaksterdam University and an internationally renowned marijuana cultivator are teaming up to offer an unprecedented online course that will teach people how to grow high-quality, organic medicinal cannabis.
Designed for home growers looking to cultivate healthy yields, the course, titled Kushman Veganics, features legendary marijuana cultivator Kyle Kushman as its instructor. Kushman’s cultivation efforts have earned him 13 Medical Cannabis Cup awards, which include three US Cannabis Cups for best flowers, and his proprietary Vegamatrix nutrients line was awarded the coveted STASH Award in 2014.
He has been practicing organic cannabis cultivation for almost 30 years and is considered one of the industry’s top growers. He previously taught horticulture at Oaksterdam University in 2009. Dale Sky Jones, executive chancellor at Oakland, California’s Oaksterdam University, says the time is right to introduce the groundbreaking online course as medicinal cannabis use, as well as recreational use, gains wider acceptance throughout the United States.
“I had a planned strategy for online courses a few years ago, but the raid on the university in 2012 really set us back in what we were trying to do,” says Dale. “It has taken us all this time to get past the effects of that.” On April 2, 2012, Oaksterdam University, along with an affiliated coffee shop and museum, were raided by the IRS, DEA and US Marshals. A number of the university’s assets were seized, including plants, records, computers and bank accounts.
Oaksterdam University is recognized as America’s first cannabis college. Founded in 2007 by Richard Lee, a medical marijuana activist, Oaksterdam’s mission is to offer quality training for people with a desire to work in the medical cannabis industry and to work toward changing laws to make cannabis legal. Lee was inspired to create Oaksterdam University after visiting Cannabis College in Amsterdam in 2006, citing the need for more well-informed professionals to work in the budding cannabis industry.
When OU was founded, few states legally recognized cannabis either for recreational or medicinal use (California recognized medicinal cannabis in 1996, but had limited framework to support it). Today, there are 23 states, as well as the District of Columbia, that have legalized medical marijuana in some form while four states—Alaska, Colorado, Washington State and Oregon—have legally approved restricted recreational use.
While OU is currently a non-accredited academic institution, as opposition to the cannabis industry wanes and more education is required to build a framework surrounding the industry, OU is working towards becoming fully accredited. Kushman Veganics is scheduled to be introduced as early as spring 2016 as an elective before being rolled out as a full-length course later this year.
Filming and post-production has taken place—it was filmed in 4K—and the format will be similar to a cooking show, with interactive quizzes and tests for students to take to obtain a certificate. “What I really hope people get from this is to grow quality over quantity,” says Kyle. “People who use cannabis tend to lean more towards healthier lifestyles and be more conscious of what goes into their bodies. If they are using cannabis instead of prescription drugs, I want that product to be as pure and healthy as possible.”
The course will benefit both beginner and experienced growers looking to improve their techniques and results through veganics. “I believe veganic horticulture is the evolution of organic horticulture,” adds Kyle. “Outdoors, organic farming is fantastic…but if you till animal waste into the soil, now you have this hazardous waste that has to be removed from the property and who wants to get into that business? Growing healthy plants without using animal products is really the future of growing for home growers.”
For Oaksterdam University, the future is online tutorials. While it has already graduated thousands of people through its brick-and-mortar location in Oakland, being able to provide certificates and diplomas to students in far-away locales will extend its reach and ability to educate. “One of the most frustrating restrictions the school faces is finding a way to gather enough people to come take a subject in Oakland at a certain time and a certain place. It can be limiting in how much can be explored,” says Dale. “To be able to take this information and put it online, beginning with Kyle’s course, for people who don’t have the time or money to come to Oakland, is a big step forward.”
Because of so many different nuances in legislation from state to state pertaining to marijuana, Dale says pre-requisites will be required to protect students from breaking the law in their respective home states. Though accessible to students in jurisdictions that have not yet legalized marijuana, the information the university puts online is protected by freedom of speech. “We will teach you how to mitigate your risks,” says Dale. “I will highlight that we do have pre-requisites. You have to take legal, you have to take civics, and we require courses like politics and history to make sure you know what not to do. That is a responsibility we take seriously here at Oaksterdam.”
As states like California and others inch closer to creating a framework for the legalization of medicinal and recreational marijuana and the revenue it can generate—in 2014, legal cannabis sales amounted to $2.7 billion in the US and sales are expected to reach $35 billion annually by 2020—it’s not just small-time home growers who are enrolling in OU programs. “People taking our courses include regulators and researchers, political staffers, doctors and nurses, lawyers, legal professionals and others who have a responsibility to educate themselves on the industry,” says Dale.
The relationship between Kushman and OU was re-established when Jones and Kushman routinely reconnected at various industry events over the past several months. “We realized we were sort of working against each other because I had been planning online courses for my own website,” Kyle explains. “Instead of competing, we decided to partner up and I think it’s going to work out very well.”