When you’re looking for a wine specialist, you call in an attendant. When you’re looking for a beer specialist, you call a Cicerone. But who do you call when looking for a cannabis specialist? (Hint: It’s not your “boy.”)
Enter Ganjier (pronounced gon-jae-ee), a first-of-its-kind certification program that turns enthusiasts and industry professionals into marijuana masters. Launched in 2020, the program aims to expand education about the long-banned substance and in the process facilitate a wider appreciation of the craft cannabis.
Managing director Derek Gilman said there was a lack of understanding about it — and therefore a lack of appreciation for quality cannabis as the legal market was flooded with products. He said dispensaries often price weed based on the amount of tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, which is harmful to both products and consumers.
“My personal passion is a cannabis connoisseur. I’m really into tools, techniques, you know, enjoying my experience with cannabis. For me, it’s no different than people who like great wine or great coffee or great enjoy chocolate,” Gilman said. “The epicurean industries I mentioned—wine, chocolate, coffee—do not measure quality based on alcohol content or caffeine content. It’s the aroma, the taste, the feel.”
In September, 36 people received the certification after the inaugural Ganjiar training. Enrollment is now open for next season, which means you too can graduate from casual enthusiast to real weed snob.
how it works
The Ganjiar program includes a mix of self-guided online courses and individual training before the nominee completes a written test and two oral exams. The curriculum comprehensively covers all aspects of marijuana, including the history and science of the plant, the different ways it is grown and processed, and modern consumption methods, among other topics.
Like the Sommelier and Cicerone programs, customer service and sensory analysis are essential to the course. Service training focuses on how cannabis professionals can help each consumer find the appropriate product for their preferences and level of experience.
When it comes to sensory analysis, aspiring gangeers will learn how to properly taste flowers and focus by studying terpenes and breaking down other elements that affect taste and aroma. Students also learn how to evaluate the quality of buds by looking at the trichome structure and learn to identify contaminants such as mold or mildew.
Each program registrant receives access to a terpene inhaler and a kit with flashcards, and a professional-grade jeweler’s lens to aid with home study, as well as a proprietary app that facilitates assessment. (For those familiar with the Beer Judge certification program, the app is similar to Beer Scoresheet.)
“You can’t assess cannabis without actually consuming it,” Gilman said. “Like a sommelier, [students] They learn techniques, but then they go home and practice.”
After self-guided online classes, Ganjier participants register to take part in a two-day intensive in California’s most famous cannabis cultivation area, the Emerald Triangle, where they’ll tour a marijuana farm, more about customer service guidelines Learn, and do sensory exercises. Analysis techniques in real time with a teacher.
After that, it is time for the exams. The test includes a written knowledge assessment, a role-playing assessment that focuses on cannabis customer service, and a blind tasting assessment.
While these are all valuable skills, certification itself is not necessary to get a job in the cannabis industry, according to Kelsey Appelbaum, vice president of partnerships for cannabis recruitment firm Wangst. And just because an applicant has certification, it doesn’t guarantee they’ll do the job, at least not yet.
“It’s the type of program that’s getting its footing right now, and we’re trying to figure out if it’s the kind of certification or process that’s really going to add value,” she said.
One reason for this is that because marijuana is regulated at the state level, markets vary widely across the country. The same type of cannabis grown in California may differ significantly from its counterpart grown in New York because of how it is grown and the climate, she said, which presents a challenge in the analysis.
Appelbaum has never heard of a company that requires such certification of job applicants, whether budding or in the C suite. Still, cannabis is a nascent industry that is guaranteed to grow as legalization progresses, she said.
“Particularly as we push for federal legalization, this may change,” Appelbaum said, “but we are at a point where there is too much change between one market and another to standardize education. “
If knowledge from courses like the Ganjier program gives applicants the confidence to talk about cannabis, they believe it’s worth pursuing. In fact, Appelbaum said she can register to get a feel for the program and its potential.
Gilman noted that most of the initial range of graduates are already in the weed industry, but that the Ganjier certification is also open to anyone who wants to enter the industry. He hopes that anyone interested in improving the quality of products in the market will join in.
“The market is flooded with commercial, mid-range cannabis from these big growers with these giant commercial greenhouses or these big industrial indoor growers. It is strangling the small farmer,” Gilman said. Without a market that understands quality and one that values quality, there is not going to be a market for craft cannabis for long.”
“It has been my personal mission to save this craft farmer,” he said. “Because if they leave, we’re all going to be stuck in the middle and it won’t be any fun for anyone.”
The cost of enrolling in the Ganjiar certification program is $2,997. Those looking to break down the cost can pay $699 upfront for online courses and an additional $2,697 when they’re ready to book personal training. For more information visit ganjier.com.
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