This state may soon require higher education for dispensary workers  (no pun intended)

cannabis education

As the cannabis industry expands, the need for skilled workers continues to increase. Several plant-centric education platforms have popped up to meet this demand, hoping to equip candidates with the knowledge they need to succeed in weed. Four-year universities are also taking note, with more colleges adding cannabis curriculum every year.

While many cannabis companies provide some type of internal training during the new hire onboarding, one state is considering making formal education on the plant obligatory. According to a recent report, regulators in South Dakota are reviewing a proposal requiring dispensary workers to complete a semester-long cannabis studies certificate.

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The recommendation was made by Benjamin Valdez of Southeast Technical College in Sioux Falls. He argued that formal training would promote the safety and legitimacy of South Dakota’s medical cannabis program and help boost higher education enrollment across the board.

“When you look at pharmacies across South Dakota that are required to have licensed pharmacists and pharmacy techs that are trained, why not try and provide that similar process for a dispensary,” Valdez said in an interview with Inside Higher Ed.

Cannabis retail staff in South Dakota must receive on-the-job training focused on security protocols, safety measures, and administrative tasks. However, there are no requirements for education on the plant itself.

Valdez’s proposal would create a program focused on “medical marijuana laws, pharmacology, ethics, compliance in dispensing and a capstone where students would demonstrate their knowledge in an industry setting.” The coursework would be offered in hybrid in-person and remote settings to increase accessibility.

At this point, it’s unclear who would foot the bill for the classes. Valdez made it clear in his presentation that he wants the training to be affordable and not a roadblock for job-seekers or retailers looking to bring on qualified staff.

Voters approved medical marijuana in South Dakota in 2020, but the program faced stiff opposition from local lawmakers. A ballot initiative to legalize adult-use cannabis passed that same year but was overturned by the state supreme court.

While higher education could help boost knowledge of the plant for both cannabis workers and consumers, the South Dakota proposal only goes so far. Since cannabis remains a Schedule I substance, healthcare professionals are extremely limited in the training they receive on the plant. Federal marijuana legalization could be the catalyst that truly unlocks the research needed by doctors to help inform their patients.


rachelle gordon

Rachelle Gordon is a cannabis journalist, Emerald Cup judge, Budist critic, and editor of She began her weed writing journey in 2015 and has been featured in High Times, CannabisNow, Beard Bros, MG, Skunk, and many others. Rachelle currently splits her time between Minneapolis and Oakland; her favorite cannabis cultivars include Silver Haze and Tangie. Follow Rachelle on Instagram @rachellethewriter