Hospitality and Tourism Management unveils cannabis operations curriculum

Professors John Lipford and Kristen Jack pose for a photo.
Hospitality and Tourism Management professors John Lipford, left, and Kristen Jack developed coursework for students to earn a badge, certificate or minor in cannabis operations.
Image credit - Amanda Pitts

Analysis of the burgeoning cannabis industry projects more than 500,000 workers will be employed by 2024. 

In hopes of meeting the growing demand, Kristen Jack, program director and assistant professor of hospitality and tourism management, and John Lipford, affiliate professor in the HTM program, are introducing coursework for GVSU students to apply hospitality and tourism principles to the cannabis industry.

Classes are scheduled to begin in Fall 2022. Students can select between a 9-credit badge, a 15-credit certificate or a 20-credit minor. Lipford said his students’ questions and curiosity led him to develop the curriculum. 

The badge and certificate pathways are available to degree-seeking students of any major and any returning degree or non-degree seeking adult learners. The minor pathway is available to any degree-seeking GVSU student.

“I have fielded questions in many hospitality and tourism classes about cannabis' impacts upon other important segments of our communities; including medical use, risk tolerance, workplace/insurance issues, relationships with government, law enforcement, social justice, social equity, mental health and addiction,” said Lipford. 

“I am proud to say all of those questions have now led to the creation of stackable, interdisciplinary cannabis credentialing at GVSU.”

Lipford said 80% of the 130 seats in the course have been filled with 30 majors represented across three classes — HTM 217 (Cannabis and Culture); HTM 242 (Cannabis Regulations and Tourism); and HTM 317 (Responsible Cannabis Operations)

The industry in the state has grown rapidly since voters approved it in 2018. Michigan is the third largest cannabis market behind California and Colorado with more than 31,100 people employed.

Michigan recorded $1.79 billion in sales in 2021 with projected growth to top out at $3.2 billion. According to the Michigan Cannabis Industry Association, the state also generated $350 million in tax revenue in 2021 from the recreational market.  

"We are seeing a great deal of interest already, not only with students registering for the courses, but also the industry and even non-profit and governmental organizations,” said Jack. “I am really excited to see where this goes, and John’s passion for the topics and excellent teaching is going to quickly make it a leader in cannabis education.”

Grand Valley becomes the fourth university in Michigan to develop curriculum addressing the business or science of cannabis, but the first to offer interdisciplinary, community-focused credentialing on the subject. 

Grand Valley’s certificate and minor pathways will apply the tenets of hospitality and tourism with interdisciplinary studies like criminal justice, public administration, sociology, social work and community planning.

“I think the uniqueness of this program at GVSU is what makes it so exciting,” said Jack. “There are other programs in the country, but the work John has done with ensuring it has a community and social justice focus with the interdisciplinary pieces makes it stand out from the rest.”


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