January 27, 2020
A cannabis farm in Oregon. (Adobe stock image)
Kevin Bopp, a practicing attorney living and working in Williamstown, Mass., has been teaching business law at MCLA for the past six years. But 2020 finds him at the helm of a brand-new business course for the College. His spring semester Cannabis Industry class is fully enrolled, showing student interest in this burgeoning industry.
“I’ve been watching the cannabis industry and have been fascinated by it,” said Bopp. “I don’t want to draw a correlation between controlled substances, but the United States has not seen such a significant political, cultural and economic shift since alcohol prohibition ended. I’m excited at the opportunity to study and explore all the implications of cannabis legalization.”
MCLA has placed itself on the cutting edge by offering this class, but it is not alone. At least six other Massachusetts schools have added classes focused on different aspects of the cannabis industry, from Boston University, which is offering an undergraduate course focusing on socio-economically equitable adult marijuana use policies, to Berkshire Community College, which is offering a certificate program that covers the basics of this new business, from retail to horticulture.
“It’s a huge industry and students are hungry to learn,” said Bopp. “They have business aspirations and this is new job creation.” In fact, as of 2019, more than 211,000 full-time jobs have been created in the legal cannabis industry, according to a March 2019 report published by Leafly in partnership with Whitney Economics.
Bopp said there’s a lot of opportunity for job creation right here in the Berkshires, not only in the manufacture of cannabis and hemp, but in peripheral job industries, as well. “There are huge opportunities in marketing,” he said, “as well as in accounting, compliance, financing and banking, and even human resources.”
“The tax regulations are pretty sophisticated,” he added, “and the textbooks don’t exist.” In a rapidly changing industry, where cities and states pass their own laws on cannabis each year, he said students will need to learn where to find the most up-to-date information. His class will examine existing and evolving regulations and policies governing the cultivation, production, and sale of cannabis and hemp. It will also identify the social, cultural, economic and legal impacts of its prohibition and legalization on individuals and communities.
Those looking for jobs in this industry, said Bopp, won’t be competing with people who have 10-20 years of experience. “For newly graduating college students, this is a great opportunity.”
Emery Korte ’20, a business major at MCLA, enrolled in Bopp’s course partly to learn the facts behind the industry, so as to dispel what he sees as stigma surrounding cannabis. “When you talk to people about cannabis, many of them become uncomfortable,” he said. “There’s a lack of knowledge.” He is eager to have clarification and evidence to defend against those who tend to marginalize the industry.
“I’m not trying to promote the industry,” said Bopp, “but this sector is growing, and we can stand on the sidelines and watch it happen, or we can participate. The business department is here to teach people how to identify economic opportunity, and that’s what this is.”
Are you an MCLA student, alum, or faculty member? Do you want MCLA to share your story? Please email Creative and Brand Strategy Manager Francesca Olsen at Francesca.Olsen@mcla.edu.