Ohio Cannabis School Receives Accreditation


The Cleveland School of Cannabis (CSC), located in Independence, Ohio, announced on March 6 that it is the first cannabis school in the U.S. to be recognized through the Middle States Association-CESS. “The accreditation of CSC by Middle States Association-CESS (MSA-CESS) marks a significant step forward for the cannabis industry, driven by a broader acceptance of cannabis and its related fields within the formal education system,” CSC wrote in a press release. “With over 1,100 graduates, CSC has already made substantial contributions to the workforce and knowledge base of the cannabis industry. This formal recognition could pave the way for further advancements in cannabis research, education, and professional development, bridging the gap between the burgeoning cannabis market and academic legitimacy.” Technically, the college received accreditation in December 2023, but the school only recently published the announcement.

For more than 130 years, Middle States Association-CESS has been operating as a voluntary non-profit association that evaluates and performs accreditation of both public and private schools. Accreditation demonstrates if a school is maintaining a specific level of quality and performance through five categories: foundations, governance and organization, student well-being, resources, and teaching and learning.

The press release explained that this decision was made in part because the federal government is researching and discussing cannabis rescheduling. “Following a recommendation by the U.S. Department of Health to reschedule cannabis as a Schedule III substance, CSC’s recognition by the Department of Education could be an early indicator of changing attitudes within the federal government towards cannabis,” CSC wrote. “Rescheduling cannabis would acknowledge its medical benefits and could notably impact the regulatory landscape. This could potentially ease restrictions on research, banking, and taxation within the cannabis industry.”

CSC’s accreditation was awarded in part because it recently moved into a new building with access to a grow lab, processing lab, kitchen, mock dispensary, and virtual reality lab. “CSC’s newest additions were developed to upgrade the learning experience for students to enhance student learning through practical, hands-on education in cannabis cultivation, processing, cooking, and sales,” the press release stated. “This approach not only readies students for the cannabis industry’s intricacies but also boosts their job prospects by offering a deep dive into the sector.”

Additionally, CSC utilizes more recent technological innovations such as VR and gaming engines to create digital versions of their labs for remote students to utilize. For example, it hosts a 16-week “My First Plant” virtual course to teach consumers how to grow cannabis at home.

A spokesperson from the U.S. Department of Education told The Canton Repository in a statement that while CSC is accredited, the school “is not approved by the Department to participate in Title IV or other programs under the Higher Education Act.” Students attending accredited schools are eligible for financial aid, but in this case it’s not clear that CSC would qualify.

CSC has been operating since 2017 and has had 1,100 students graduate through its various programs. On Feb. 29, Cannabis Business Times published an interview with CSC founder Austin Briggs. “It hasn’t been easy running a cannabis business in Ohio,” Briggs said. “For things as little as occupancy permits, we had to fight tooth and nail. For a largely conservative state, Ohio citizens have shown wide support for cannabis, both medical and recreational. But there still seems to be a tremendous amount of resistance from the government in supporting cannabis programs in Ohio. With the passing of Issue 2 and our accreditation, I’m hoping this will be a turning point for Ohio policy.”

CSC President Tyrone Russell also provided a statement regarding how the school trains students and connects them with jobs in the industry. “Workforce development and education is the key to socioeconomic mobility,” said Russell. “Companies have to hire people from their communities, and that only happens if those community members have access to education. In Ohio, you can go to your Ohio means jobs office, and get a grant to be a barber, welder, truck driver, contractor, or nail technician, but not to work in cannabis.”

Other educational institutions have been increasing cannabis education over the past few years.

Back in 2019, the University of Maryland announced one of the first medical cannabis Master’s degree programs. Since then, many other institutions have introduced some form of education program or degree revolving around cannabis. Last November, the University of Mississippi School of Pharmacy announced a new medical degree in medical cannabis and dietary supplements.

Earlier this year in January, Roanoke College in Virginia announced its launch of a new cannabis studies program. I commend the faculty for developing a transdisciplinary academic program that fills a significant educational gap,” said vice president for academic affairs and dean of Roanoke College, Kathy Wolfe. “With this program, Roanoke College continues to lead in science, policy, business and community engagement.” 

Professor DorothyBelle “DB” Poli helped to establish the new program. “Students are interested in this industry,” Poli said. “Being the first in the state to approach cannabis from a scholarly perspective is inventive and entrepreneurial. We hope to help bring clarity to tough problems by creating a truly multidisciplinary think tank.”



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