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Entrepreneurs Teach 'Marijuana 101' for 'Budding' Growers

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Now that marijuana laws are slackening, more people are eager to learn the business.

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Medical marijuana is legal in nearly 20 US states, and adults can smoke pot recreationally now in Washington state and Colorado. And starting next year, stores legally selling recreational marijuana are scheduled to open in Colorado.

Those facts have inspired a group of budding young entrepreneurs looking for a niche in the cannabis market to come up with a potentially profitable idea: develop a program to train people to not only grow marijuana, but to prepare for potential careers with marijuana growers, manufacturers, and dispensaries.

"The medical industry is already thriving, here the recreation industry is about to boom, and there's no source here in Colorado for people to really get a professional education in the field," says 24-year-old Matt Jones, co-founder of THC University. "There's no standard for educating the workforce for this industry."

Over the weekend, about 20 people attended THC University's first class, "Growing Marijuana 101," in a rented room at an educational complex in downtown Denver.

No marijuana was allowed in class. Instead the students practiced on tomato plants as they learned how to grow and cultivate cannabis -- using information gathered from local cannabis industry veterans.

Jones and his business partner Freeman LaFleur decided to create a course for people who want to grow marijuana at home -- as well as for those with an eye on the industry.

"Right now, we are in a gray area," Jones says. "Recreationally it's legal to smoke [in Colorado], but it's illegal to buy or sell. The only way you can get the plant is if you grow it on your own."

Students at the "Growing Marijuana 101" class paid $175 for the one-day seminar -- or $275 for the course plus a year of 24-hour tech support once their plants are growing.

Demand is such that the university is now offering 14 courses, both in a classroom and online.

And Jones says he and his colleagues are working with marijuana producers and dispensaries to create a curriculum that produces the kind of employee the cannabis industry wants and needs. They're also creating an online jobs board where graduates can find employment and where companies can search them out.

Marijuana is still illegal under federal law, and Jones says the new cannabis industry needs employees who are more than just, in his words, "enthusiastic potheads" -- people who not only know their product well, but who understand their legal responsibilities.

"Our generation has such a unique opportunity," he says, "a chance to get into an industry that's just beginning. My advice is to start planning, start doing. Start connecting."

Editor's Note: This story by Bruce Kennedy was originally published on MSN moneyNOW.

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