Taking Cannabis Education to New Heights: Max Simon
Max Simon, The Guru of the Cannabis Industry talks to us about the rise in cannabis education, the cannabis curriculum taught at universities and the highly specialized Ganjier Programme.
Max Simon started Green Flower in 2014 with a mission to educate society about cannabis. Green Flower is now the leader in cannabis education and training. They are a recognised online education platform that provide cannabis courses to 28+ different universities and community colleges, with the aim of making cannabis education more accessible to people. Green Flower provides the world's most comprehensive, on-demand training platform, built specifically for cannabis professionals. They are trusted by government officials, business leaders, and higher education institutions driving the cannabis industry forward. Max aims to educate people about cannabis and remove the stigma attached to the use of cannabis. He is also the CEO of Ganjier, the Cannabis Sommelier certification which was launched in 2020. Ganjier has shown massive growth right from its launch. He is also a meditation teacher and promotes mind-body wellness.
Simon talks about his personal experiences with cannabis, how it has helped him with ADHD and how it has changed his life.
Can you tell us about yourself and how your journey with cannabis began?
I have been a cannabis patient for many decades, having used this plant as a very effective tool for managing my ADHD, and for developing myself mentally, physically, and spiritually. I consider cannabis a very important tool in my health and wellness, personal development, and happiness journey.
What is Green Flower and what inspired you to launch it?
Green Flower is a leader in cannabis education, powering the cannabis curriculums of 28+ different universities & community colleges, satisfying mandatory training requirements of cannabis operators across the country, and offering Ganjier, the cannabis sommelier certification. I was inspired to launch Green Flower because I could see that cannabis was going to become a massive industry, and that it would need educated and well-trained people to help it grow. With my deep background in education businesses, and my personal history with cannabis, I saw a golden opportunity to build an industry-leading company, so I started the business in 2014 and never looked back.
Image source: Green Flower
What are some of the certifications provided by Green Flower and how is the curriculum planned?
Through our University partners like the University of Arizona, Syracuse University, and UC Riverside, we offer 4 six-month online certificate programs in Cannabis Business, Cannabis Agriculture, Cannabis Medicine, and Cannabis Law & Policy. These programs prepare people to find success within these 4 specific sectors of the industry. Our community college partners like Tulsi Community College and Kalamazoo Valley Community College offer workforce development programs, specifically designed to help people gain employment in retail, cultivation, and manufacturing. Those programs include the Advanced Dispensary Associate, Advanced Cultivation Technician, and Advanced Manufacturing Agent programs, which are 8-weeks and also 100% online. Finally, we have our year-long Ganjier Certification, which is our deep-dive cannabis sommelier certification. This program is rigorous and advanced, it helps people become a master of cannabis products, services and communication.
Each of our programs is crafted with an enormous amount of feedback from cannabis industry employers, operators, and experts who help us understand the exact knowledge, skills, and qualifications needed to properly develop the industry, and help people become trusted professionals in the space. Because we have been producing cannabis curriculums since 2014, our network now boasts over 700+ subject matter experts across all sectors of the industry, and we have produced over 2,500+ hours of content.
Image source: Green Flower
What are some of the topics/subjects taught as part of the cannabis programs in schools/colleges? (Could you give some examples)
Let's take the Cannabis Agriculture & Horticulture program offered through our University partners. This program provides both novice and experienced growers with insight regarding every aspect of the cultivation process from seed to sale. In six months, students learn how to care for cannabis plants, study cannabis botany and genetics, and explore plant growth techniques. Students can also choose to specialize in the indoor or outdoor grow track with immersive and experiential learning opportunities to work hands-on with cannabis, hemp, or even dioecious plants if you're in a state where it's still not legal to grow your own.
Specifically, here are modules covered in that program:
- Botany and Genetics
- Seeds, Germination, and Transplanting
- Soil and Growing Media
- Cannabis Light Sources
- Watering Essentials
- The Vegetative Cycle
- Cannabis Plant Chemistry
- Introduction to the Flowering Cycle
- Pests, Diseases, and Threats
- Harvesting and Drying
- Trimming and Processing
- Curing and Storage
- Industrial Hemp
What does your day/week look like?
I spent a lot of time working with our team on strategy, vision, and attaining our goals. I believe your team is your MOST important and valuable asset, which is why I devote so much of my time to working with them directly, nurturing their goals and ambitions, and being a champion for their growth. Outside of that, I invest a lot of energy into forming new partnerships, developing new strategies, and coming up with new ideas to help the business grow. These days because of how much growth we are experiencing, I tend to do a lot of media and press as well.
What are some of the challenges you faced or still face in cannabis education and how did you solve them? (if you could give a few examples)
We face numerous challenges on numerous fronts. In the higher education space, there is still a significant stigma around cannabis, and thus it can be very difficult to get schools to take this seriously. We continue to work on solving that challenge by being very persistent, showing school executives impressive growth data about the cannabis industry as well as about our business, and continuing to develop better and better programs that display academic rigour and lead to undeniable student success. In the enterprise business, cannabis companies are still learning the importance of training their people, and see this investment as a business builder rather than just a cost. We continue to work on solving this issue by producing solid case studies about the value of cannabis training on sales, employee retention, and overall performance, as well as by simply working with more and more leaders in the space who understand and appreciate the value of high-quality training.
Image source: Facebook
Can you tell us about the Ganjier course? What kind of job opportunities open up post the certification program?
Ganjier is a first-of-its-kind, rigorous, multi-tiered cannabis sommelier certification created and taught by the most respected names in the field. We created this program because there was a serious need to develop real certified experts in cannabis products, to provide genuinely valuable and accurate service to consumers. What's been surprising to us is how many CEOs, executives, and leaders within the cannabis industry have taken the program, and used this knowledge to help them develop better products, refine their marketing message, better train their staff, and improve their quality control. So a good number of people have taken this program to help them land a job in cannabis, which this easily helps them do because Certified Ganjiers are in very high demand. Yet many people are taking the program to help them level up their cannabis careers or company because it really is an advanced qualification for understanding the qualities that make cannabis great.
How do you envision the cannabis industry in the coming years? Also particularly in the Cannabis Drinks Industry.
I firmly believe we are on the precipice of meaningful federal reform, whether that be SAFE banking or full federal legalization. As a result, the already fast-growing cannabis industry will grow at a MUCH faster pace, and that will bring in millions of new jobs and tens of billions of new revenue. But since nobody has a crystal ball to determine exactly when that will happen, I believe we will continue to see States legalize, we will see reform at a local level make operating a cannabis business easier and more user-friendly, and we will continue to welcome in millions of new cannabis consumers every year.
I think the cannabis drinks industry is a VERY exciting sector because there is no stigma for someone having a drink. That said, cannabis drinks are not easy to produce, and they are still too expensive for the average consumer. Furthermore, cannabis drinks must break out of the box of only being sold in a licensed cannabis shop, as that is way too restrictive for this category. So I hope that as the industry matures, the laws make it easier for people to purchase drinks through other venues, we see more manufacturing shops open up that have the capabilities to produce high-quality drinks at a more affordable price, and we can open up this category outside of the current, very-restrictive channels.
Image source: Instagram
What does the future for Green Flower look like?
Green Flower's future is very bright. We plan to have university partners in every state, we are quickly growing our national network of community colleges, we are accredited as a cannabis training provider in more states than any other company, and our Ganjier Certification is continuing to attract more and more high-level people. We have a vision of educating 1 million students by 2030 across all our channels, and I feel confident we'll get there based on our current trajectory.
Interviewed by Prithvi Nagpal, Editor & Sommelier, Beverage Trade Network