- Larry Gabriel
- Sammy Rogers is the founder of Higher Learning Institutions, Michigan's first brick-and-mortar cannabis school.
The idea of a cannabis school is not so outlandish as it used to sound. From the moment the medical marijuana law was passed in 2008 somebody has been offering lessons on how to grow and do the other things necessary for the industry. Those lessons have spanned from private consultants teaching individuals how to home grow to university classes on cannabis science. There are cannabis colleges and institutes offering classes online for skills like growing, extracting, making edibles, and more.
We're still in education mode for folks who want a place in the industry — every dispensary needs a manager and budtenders. Every grow needs growers. Somebody has to extract the stuff that goes in the gummies and chocolates. And there are even some people who just want to learn how to make their home grow better.
Sammy Rogers, founder of Higher Learning Institutions, can accommodate folks who want to go into the business or to grow at home. "Just going through and showing people how to maximize their space, and their budget as well, and they turn around from getting a couple of ounces out of 12 plants to where their getting four to seven ounces out of each plant," says Rogers. "That's what makes me happy right there, seeing that turnaround."
Higher Learning Institutions inhabits a modest wing on the third floor of 17 S. Saginaw St. in Pontiac. A few certificates hang on the walls — one is a proclamation from the state hailing it as the "first brick and mortar cannabis vocational and technical school." That means students come to class rather than online. That's pretty much necessary because the two plants that each student has in the grow lab have to be taken care of. There is an extraction lab, too. That is in addition to field trips to learn at operating professional sites. As a money-saving hack, students learn how to build their own LED light rig to save a few hundred dollars each on set up costs.
Rogers, a Pontiac native, says that he and his father first learned cannabis cultivation 10 years ago from a guy he calls Farmer Ed in California. After some years of practice, they were good at it but Rogers wasn't satisfied with just making money.
"I wanted to make it bigger than oh let's makes some money," says Rogers. "I want to change lives."
Returning to Michigan, with its personal grow and caregiver laws, he began working with growers and patients — many of whom assumed it would be easy to just put some plants in the basement with a couple of lights. Rogers has a basic question for them. "Do you want to smoke something better?" he asks. "Do you want to have more that will last you throughout the year?"
Asking, and having the answer to that, has led from informal consulting to a consultant group to establishing a school in 2019. Rogers cites a relationship with the House of Dank to train employees for the six-location dispensary chain. Some students have gained employment at Ferndale dispensaries LIV and Green Buddha, as well as locations in Big Rapids and Flint from the 2020 classes.
"Our students have options," says Rogers. "Some are going to work for companies, some came here and took their knowledge and become better growers for themselves."
Higher Learning Institutions begins an eight-week cultivation course on Sept. 13; an eight-week extraction course on Sept. 14; and a four-week budtender class on Sept. 14. There are online-only options for some classes.
More information is available at yourhigherlearning.com.