Want to know more about the hemp business? A Kentucky college now offers a crash course.

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The hemp industry is no stranger to Kentucky. How well do you know your cannabis?
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The hemp industry is no stranger to Kentucky. How well do you know your cannabis?

BCTC will offer a crash course on hemp at its Winchester campus this coming semester.

“BIO 229: Special Topics” will focus on hemp production, history and biology while also introducing students to “career options and compliance issues” in the hemp business, according to a press release. The course will also focus on hemp’s biology.

It is the first class on hemp offered by a Central Kentucky university.

The new class was organized by Bluegrass Community and Technical College (BCTC) alongside professionals in the hemp industry from organizations like GenCanna, a vertically integrated hemp and CBD producer based out of Winchester.

Start-ups like GenCanna have taken advantage of hemp’s recently burgeoning economic promise in the Bluegrass. The state has seen a dramatic surge in hemp acreage and jobs in the industry since legalization, with 250 new jobs generated in the first half of 2019 alone, according to the Kentucky Cabinet for Economic Development.

But the modern hemp industry has a learning curve.

“There’s been a lot of lost knowledge,” said Chris Stubbs, GenCanna’s chief science officer. Stubbs said the re-emerging hemp industry involves “a lot of modern techniques and expectations” that may be intimidating to an industry outsider.

That’s just one reason why Stubbs coordinated with BCTC officials to design the course, which is intended to point graduates interested in the hemp industry in the right direction.

“We might not know how to onboard folks that have great experience in these areas, and they might not know where to look. The more we learn together, the better we get as an ecosystem,” Stubbs said.

The course will be offered in the fall semester at BCTC’s Winchester-Clark County Campus. It will be taught by Norman Strobel, a biology professor.

BCTC officials initiated planning for the course in January 2019, according to Bruce Manley, director of BCTC’s Winchester campus. Manley coordinated a hemp summit with local companies and political officials from Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Agricultural Commissioner Ryan Quarles’ offices.

“We wanted to jump ahead of the game and start those conversations, even before (hemp) was deregulated, so that we could jump in with training when the industry needed it,” Marley said. “It turned out to be the perfect timing.”

Even as the semester approaches, certain course specifics remain unknown. That’s another element of the learning curve, as professors and BCTC officials attempt to adapt to a rapidly evolving industry.

If hemp’s economic promise continues to grow at its current rate, BCTC officials may consider offering a hemp certification program or even a two-year degree program, according to Manley. That would be good news for companies like GenCanna as they look to further expand.

“My experiences with hemp have always been curiosity-driven,” Stubbs said. “There’s a really bright future for expanding upon (BCTC’s) effort… We’re very excited to have this first step occur.”