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URC partners with Cleveland school for cannabis education

YOUNGSTOWN — United Returning Citizens in Youngstown has partnered with the Cleveland School of Cannabis to provide education for returning citizens to enter cannabis industry.

The Independence-based school, now in its fifth year, offers a variety of programs, from cannabis horticulture, extraction and dispensary courses, as well as courses in CBD and hemp. There’s also help with job placement upon completion.

URC has its second cohort of students enrolled following a pilot enrollment with one person. It was done that way to determine if the school and URC would be a good fit, said the Youngstown-based agency’s executive director, Dionne Dowdy-Lacey.

It was, she said, and now URC has four people enrolled in the school.

“We’re just trying to set up a system where they could win in this space,” said Dowdy-Lacey.

Initially designed exclusively to help people re-enter society after being incarcerated, many of URC’s programs now serve the greater Mahoning Valley community, from entrepreneurial guidance to programs that empower women to URC Grows, an agriculture-based educational and employment program that provides education, employment and social justice for individuals who have been incarcerated for marijuana-related charges.

The program serves as an entry point into the cannabis industry entrepreneurs and professionals.

What Dowdy-Lacey said she found from talking with people her agency serves is they smoked marijuana to alleviate issues with anxiety, anger or stress disorder.

“So I was like, how cool would that be if they could learn how to grow and know about what they are growing, what they are consuming,” Dowdy-Lacey said. “It’s just like food, you need to know what is going into your body.”

There was also an economic factor — that corporations were making millions in the cannabis industry.

This was a chance to change the narrative, she said, and educate people who have been incarcerated for distributing marijuana or growing it a home professional training “so they can be in that space and do what they love to do in a legal sense.”

The agency also helps with expungements and pardons, further allowing people to work in the cannabis industry.

Kevin Greene is the vice president of the Cleveland School of Cannabis.

“Our focus is workforce education for the cannabis industry,” Greene said. “Our goal is to educate the general person, the cannabis enthusiast on the technical knowledge of cannabis in the major areas.”

So far, the school, one of three across the U.S. that has state certification, has graduated more than 750 students.

The courses, which also include one in medical application, which is more research-based, are 150 hours. The school also has an executive program that contains a combination of core classes from across the various courses, Greene said. It is 300 hours.

Students can be full- or part-time, and the school has a career services department that works directly with employers for job placement. There are also some internships available.

URC applied for and received a grant from The Hawthorne Collective, a subsidiary of the Scotts Miracle-Gro Company that focuses on minority investments in areas in the cannabis industry.

The three-year grant was for $200,000, Dowdy-Lacey said. It costs almost $15,000 per student for URC, she said.

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