GV offers unique opportunities for students to study cannabis operation


GVL / Rachel Slomba

Jamie Wilson, Staff Writer

What began as a single class in 2019 called Cannabis Regulations and Tourism, HTM 242 has now expanded into an opportunity for students to receive a badge, certificate or minor in cannabis operation. 

“At the time, HTM 242 was the first course in the nation that focused on the impacts of legalized cannabis on the hospitality and tourism industry,” said John Lipford, an affiliate professor for Grand Valley State University’s Hospitality and Tourism Management (HTM) program. 

Both the badge and the certificate are completed online, while the minor now offers in-person courses for students.  

Lipford said the badge can be earned with the completion of three courses that offer students a holistic look at the cannabis industry. Degree-seeking and non-degree-seeking students, such as alumni, are able to register for these classes and receive the badge. 

“I’m really happy about offering students the opportunity to get a certificate,” Lipford said. “It’s an interdisciplinary type of certificate where we incorporate criminal justice, social justice issues, social equity, social work, government and nonprofit administration, as well as hospitality and tourism as an underlying theme that shows how legal cannabis impacts communities both positively and negatively.”

The certificate in cannabis operations and community planning can be earned after taking six additional credits. This will offer students an experiential component where they have the opportunity to create marketing plans, plan events and work with governments to draft ordinances.

“Achieving these credentials makes students more well-rounded and prepared for the industry,” Lipford said. “It gives this growing industry a greater pool of employees.”

Michigan currently has the third-highest number of cannabis jobs in the country and “Marijuana Moment” reported 1.8 billion dollars in Michigan cannabis sales in 2021 alone. 

“The state recently released $42 million dollars, which is being doled out to the communities in the state that have chosen to participate in legal cannabis,” Lipford said. “This money can then be used for a variety of community-oriented issues like social work, education and more.”

Currently, there are 50 institutions across the nation that offer some curricula in cannabis operation.

One complexity addressed in the program is the intersection between federal law’s current status of cannabis as a Schedule I drug and states deciding to incorporate it into their markets. 

“I think this intersection is where a lot of educational institutions’ hesitation to incorporate cannabis education into their curriculum comes from,” Lipford said. “However, there are students interested in the industry or in industries that are involved in the complexities around cannabis like government and the hospitality and tourism industries, so GVSU has decided to try and satisfy this interest.”

With registration for fall 2022 opening to students, Lipford and the HTM Program Director, Kristen Jack, are finding new ways to promote this new opportunity for students.

Jack said they’ll be meeting with university communications soon to broaden the program’s reach to the Allendale community and alumni. 

The entry-level event planning class in the HTM program is also holding an event on April 5 from 4 to 6 p.m. in the atrium of Henry Hall for students to learn more about HTM. 

Jack said the event will be casino themed and offer games for students to play while learning about the program.