Denver's weed universities offer students the chance to study a subject that actually matters: sweet, sweet weed. We talked to Chloe Villano, the founder of Clover Leaf University (the nation's only accredited marijuana university) about what it's like to get an education in your favorite topic, the devil's grass.

Denver's weed universities offer students the chance to study a subject that actually matters: sweet, sweet weed. We talked to Chloe Villano, the founder of Clover Leaf University (the nation's only accredited marijuana university) about what it's like to get an education in your favorite topic, the devil's grass.

First and foremost, who are you?

My name is Chloe Villano. I’m a cannabis business executive, expert, paralegal and certified expert witness. I’m also the founder, dean and president of Clover Leaf University.

What made you want to start a cannabis university?

With the long­term unemployment problem in the country, we will see a lot of people moving to Colorado because of the economic opportunity, and they are going to need training. The cannabis industry in Colorado is a place for living wages and jobs that can’t be outsourced out-­of­-state, let alone out of the country. While our state economy is strong and our unemployment is low, we now have a brand new industry that will need a trained and educated workforce, quickly. The cannabis industry is highly regulated. We feel people who really want to make a career in this industry must receive proper training.

The mission of Clover Leaf University is to ensure that our industry has a qualified workforce. We want to create life­long careers. We have taken the time to create a robust curriculum that will equip this new industry with the properly educated and trained workforce it needs. We are helping folks who are looking for a career to get educated and trained, and we are helping those that consume cannabis feel confident in their products and experience. 

What do students learn there?

Students can learn the basic laws and procedures around the recreational and medical marijuana business. They may also learn how to breed and grow cannabis, good cultivation practices and responsible marketing, or they can learn about industrial hemp cultivation. We will also offer cooking classes and extended accredited education for lawyers about marijuana laws, testing and science. We also offer employment training for bud tending and management as well as responsible vendor, cultivator and manufacturer’s certifications. Really we are trying to be a place where anyone in or out of this industry, new or old, can come and learn something new. 

What can you do with a certification from Clover Leaf?

We offer the same kind of certifications as real estate or dental school. With certification from the only state­accredited cannabis curriculum, our students will be able to go into the cannabis industry and feel confident in not only how the state regulations operate but have a familiarity with the culture and the plant.

How long does it take to earn a certification? 

Certification varies depending on the type of course and education you want to tailor for yourself. So anywhere from a simple responsible vendor class, which is four hours, to experienced cultivation, which takes several classes and internship hours.

Where did you find your professors?

We go to the people in the industry with the most real­world experience to teach. All of our professors are accredited with more than 10,000 tax­paying hours of occupational experience in their field of expertise. 

What are the requirements to get in?

A desire to learn! An open mind and cash helps too. You have to be old enough to work in the industry to attend. 

What's the average class size? What kind of learning environment would we find there?

Classes vary in size according to each subject. Our students come in all shapes, sizes and ages, but the most important quality for any student is a desire to learn and improve yourself. The learning environment is so fun and exciting as students share their expertise and participate in class discussions. We also have internships and workshops available to work hands on in the industry to gain experience. 

What percentage of graduates find jobs in the marijuana industry?

That is sort of a difficult question to answer as a number of our students are already in the industry and have jobs; some of our students are already doctors or lawyers and aren’t necessarily looking for jobs in the industry but are expanding their education. Almost all of our Colorado students are in the industry in some capacity or another or looking to get into the industry. 

Why attend a cannabis university as opposed to doing your own research about laws and cultivation online?

You’re learning from the best, and not all of this is easy to put together. You’ve got Wall Street businessmen who want to take the classes because the industry as whole is still very complicated. There are unlawful acts that could potentially have criminal repercussions. There will be the chance to take classes online, but others will require a hands­on internship to complete, such as a master grow certification. We then have a dissertation with a panel of our cultivation experts who will give you an approval or require you to do more hours in a certain area. 

Out of all your classes, which do you think is the most important to take?

The responsible vendor course. They are recommended by MED and the state for most operators in this industry and give you all of the information for understanding how the required operations work. They are only $99, and you get four hours packed with information tailored to success. There are just too many laws and changing regulations right now to keep up with, and it really is the best tool an employee or business owner in this industry can have. This certificate will let employers know that you are serious about your legal operational skills and that you are a responsible employee, which is what the industry is looking for. 

For your cannabis breeding and cultivation classes, do students provide their own seeds? Do you give students marijuana seeds and plants to work with? Where are the plants bred and grown?

Currently we just teach through slide shows and lectures, but we eventually have plans to create a lab and partner with other institutions in the state to expand lab practices. Breeding will have field trips, and we will give our students the information they need to find the proper resources.

What's the most delicious thing someone's made in your cannabis culinary class?

Anything with chocolate! But we have had chocolate, peanut butter and strawberry dipping fountains with various fruits etc., and they were amazing.

You offer courses on infusions and cannabis science. Do students test the products they make on themselves?

There are very strict laws regarding this, and we properly follow all of those laws. Internships are the only hands­on training we are currently offering. However, we have incredible businesses that have met all of our university requirements to become a Clover Leaf internship training facility. Businesses are required to have testing, so they could ask the business in this case for a copy of the results to keep their work. 

Are you concerned about students taking what they learn and using it operate illegal grows or sell marijuana illegally?

No, I’m not concerned about that at all. We teach them the ABCs of how to be successful in the legal cannabis business. 

Can employers discriminate against you if you have a degree from a cannabis university? Has there ever been a situation in which a professor or student has been at a disadvantage for having a cannabis certification?

I wouldn’t think so. I would think that’s a rather stupid thing to discriminate against someone for. In my experience, when you tell people you work in this industry, they are so impressed and ask questions non­stop and want to learn everything you know. I see it as a positive! We also have affiliate relationships with every staffing company in the business and receive calls non­stop for employees. 

Are the degrees or certificates valid in states where marijuana isn't legal?

Just like with any certification from a private occupational school, those standards are left up to each state to decide. For example, massage therapists in Colorado may not be certified or licensed to work in Utah. It just depends.

How do you keep up with the ever­-changing marijuana laws in Colorado? 

I employ the best people, lobbyists and lawyers who consult on the law while it is being written. This way our courses remain up to date. 

You're the only state­-accredited cannabis university in the country. What does that mean for your students?

It means they are getting a high­quality education that’s in line with any recommendations by the state and regulators. Our stand­alone course certifications and program certifications hold credits. We have transcripts. We have real certifications. There is currently no educational curriculum tailored to the success and training of this business like it.

Do you have any ambitions to operate nationally?

We will be nationally operational by July.