By Shaun Chornobroff
As recreational marijuana becomes legal in New Jersey in 2022, opportunities in the industry will soon be plentiful. With conversations changing around marijuana, Rider will be providing an opportunity to obtain a student cannabis certificate.
Sarah Trocchio, a sociology professor at Rider, is one of the leaders of the certificate program. She has studied the effects of marijuana since her days as a college student and has seen how society has pivoted its view of cannabis use.
She saw the changing landscape and recent legislation as an opportunity and is hoping to help students, as well as anyone outside the university, obtain a certificate that can give them a chance to start a career in a burgeoning industry.
“We’re really trying to do something innovative for higher education and also innovative in the cannabis industry. … I’ve been studying and working on cannabis related issues, particularly as they relate to social equity concerns, for the better part of a decade,” Trocchio said. “One of the things that I was really interested in when I became a faculty at Rider, was thinking about how we could continue to engage in conversations about what was happening in terms of the shifting landscape with cannabis and bring some of that content directly to students at Rider.”
Trocchio started this discourse by running a special topics course in the 2020-21 school year called “Reefer Madness: From Panic to Profit,” which focused on the evolution of cannabis policy in the United States, and is building off the success from that course to design the certificate program.
The four-course program, which Trocchio hopes will debut in the Fall 2022 semester, is designed to educate students on all necessary facets of the industry. The course is specifically designed to introduce students to industry professionals to help them make the necessary connections to get a start in the field.
Nisha Azad, a senior criminal justice major, was one of the members of Trocchio’s Reefer Madness class and used that experience to obtain an internship at the Kaufman Zita Group (KZG), a government and public affairs lobbying firm.
“I absolutely loved the Reefer Madness class. I’ll admit, it was definitely strange to take such a project-based class over Zoom, but Dr. Trocchio made it incredibly fun and worthwhile. It was a great experience to work with cannabis industry insiders and get their perspectives and allow them to teach the students a few things,” Azad said in an email to The Rider News. “Overall, the class helped me to create more informed and educated opinions on cannabis. The class helped show me that there’s a place for cannabis in education. There’s more than meets the eye with cannabis, and once you become aware of all its ins and outs, you really begin to change your thinking and be able to see things from a different perspective.”
While the program may start as a four-course certificate, Trocchio sees the potential for the program to evolve into much more.
“I think [Rider] is located in a really strategic place to be doing a cannabis studies program like this, being so close to the state capitol, and we’re really hoping that this is a smashing success,” Trocchio said optimistically. “And then we can later build this out into something like a minor or a major or maybe even a minor and the major for matriculated Rider students.”