7News Special Report: School of Pot

NATICK, MA (WHDH) - Legal marijuana could soon be a billion-dollar industry in Massachusetts. That’s sparking new interest in reefer careers at one of the country’s first pot schools in Natick.

But 7NEWS found that the state could force it to go up in smoke.

For most students, there is no harsher form of punishment than a four-hour class on a Friday night. But classes at the Northeastern Institute of Cannabis (NIC) are not ordinary classes.

The school is not affiliated with Northeastern University.

“We’re getting people out of the cannabis closet,” said Ellen Brown, one of the instructors at NIC.

After 48 hours of coursework and a two-hour exam, NIC offers a kind of MBA in THC.

“There’s nothing we can’t do with an industry that’s literally growing every day, Brown said.

Even the motto at NIC is, “We teach. You grow.”

7NEWS sat in on the first of three classes students take on cultivation, which Brown teaches. The school also offers “Introduction to Grow Room Design,” taught in a model grow room. Pot science, history, business and branding are also on the cannabis curriculum.

Brown said the student body varies widely.

“It’s everybody. Every walk of life comes in here,” Brown said.

Now, with the legalization of recreational marijuana in Massachusetts last month, the bud-gates have opened.

“More people are coming in and more people are asking questions,” Brown said. “I think that a place like this inspires a lot of hope, especially in our students.”

“I want to start creating jobs. I want to get into the industry,” said Evan Ramirez, a student at NIC. Ramirez is studying neuropsychology in college. For him, pot school is just a resume builder.

“There are going to be so many avenues for different ways to make money in business doing this that it doesn’t make sense not to explore it,” Ramirez said. “This is now going to give you the versatility to work in a job market and industry that’s not – there’s nobody else in it right now. it’s completely open.”

But like the marijuana industry as a whole, NIC’s official status is a bit hazy.

The Institute is not currently licensed with the state. In fact, 7NEWS discovered its application has been pending for more than two years.

NIC accuses the state of intentionally dragging its feet, and discriminating against the marijuana industry. But state officials say there are simply no standards governing how pot schools should operate. Still, since it opened in 2014, nearly 300 students have paid the $2,000 needed to earn the Institute’s Certificate of Competency.

Expect that number to rise.

“In Massachusetts, really, the sky is the limit,” Brown said.

If the state denies NIC a license, it could be forced to shut dows – unless it makes changes mandated by the state. But the school’s dean told us that NIC would continue to operate as a business – not a school.

There is no timeline for a final decision.

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