DENVER - Colorado is the first state in the country to give the green light to a school that teaches students how to grow, sell and distribute medical marijuana.
It is vacant now, but soon an office building near Interstate 25 and Alameda Avenue will be filled with adult students.
Math will not be a subject, but hash will.
It's an exciting time to be in this industry, Gus Escamilla, CEO of Greenway University, said.
Greenway University is a medical marijuana vocational school located in three states, including Colorado, New Jersey and California.
What we do is we teach people not only how to remain in compliance, but remain in compliance while using all the applications as it relates to a fundamental business, Escamilla said.
The Colorado Department of Higher Education Division of Private Occupational Schools overseas the state's 330 vocational and trade schools.
The division's seven-member board, which is appointed by Gov. Bill Ritter, has just agreed to regulate Greenway University because it meets minimum standards set forth by state statutes.
To get approved and regulated by the Colorado Department of Higher Education was a first, Escamilla said.
Jim Parker, the director of private occupational schools division, said, I think with the recent changes in legislation regarding medical marijuana dispensaries, I think that helps the board in their comfort level.
They really took a chance in allowing a medical marijuana education curriculum to be approved, Escamilla said.
Like culinary and cosmetology schools, Greenway University's curriculum is approved by the board, and instructors have to meet certain qualifications.
I think it does set forth certain industry standards in training for persons who want to run and operate a medical marijuana dispensary, Parker said. This is the first business which has seen this opportunity, responding to the market need, and offering this kind of education and training. I look at it, and I think the board looks at it the same way, there's statutory requirements for any entity or business offering occupational education and training ... Greenway University happens to meet those requirements.
Approximately 1,000 students have attended Greenway University in since it started satellite classes in downtown Denver last year.
It is expanding so fast it needs a permanent campus and eight full-time instructors.
We've got an extra botanist, geneticist, we really have some skilled and talented master growers, and all of our growers have a minimum of five years experience and grow for thousands of patients, Escamilla said.
New state laws regulating the industry are welcomed by Escamilla.
It's going to allow us to have some certainty; it's going to allow us to build off a platform with some set rules in place, Escamilla said.
As for a hands-on experience, Escamilla says marijuana will not be allowed in the classrooms for now.
Students will receive textbooks, and will have to do homework and pass tests.
Degrees are not given, but certificates are earned by students.
Escamilla is hoping to offer financial aid and student loans at some point.
Greenway University's I-25/Alameda Denver campus is expected to open in about a month.
Courses take between three and five months, and can cost between $300 and $2,000 depending on the curriculum.
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