While cannabis remains a federally scheduled drug that is officially banned on college campuses, nonetheless student usage has been a consistent presence since the counterculture days of the 1960s. Yet today, as the business of legal cannabis morphs into an attractive industry, there’s another way that students are choosing to become involved.
Enter the Cannabis Club — a new extracurricular activity at business schools across the country. With the industry becoming destigmatized and a desired career destination for students who want to ride the trend, such clubs are being formed to provide information, education and networking opportunities for interested students and employers.
At the University of Southern California’s Marshall School of Business, the Marshall Cannabis Industry Club is connecting MBA candidates with some of the major cannabis companies doing business in the state. The club organizes panel discussions, days “on the job,” and even group yoga sessions that bring entrepreneurial-minded students together with industry executives and leaders.
At Harvard University, the Business Of Cannabis Club is designed to debunk perceptions of cannabis-related companies, and encourage top professionals to enter the industry. They take pains to note they are not a consumption club, discouraging cannabis use at their events: while they are “happy about Massachusetts’ first recreational licenses” their purpose is to be a safe space where business students learn from current players.
Not to be outdone, Yale School of Management recently launched its Business Of Legal Cannabis Club with a virtual inaugural event featuring alumna and industry veteran Tahira Rehmatullah as speaker. The club builds on the reputation Yale School of Management has earned through its sponsorship of the first-ever U.S. business school cannabis conference in 2018 and successful encore in 2020 right before the pandemic.
Other leading business schools are also providing this opportunity. The Stanford Graduate School of Business has founded the GSB Cannabis Business Club. The University of California at Berkeley Haas School of Business has a Cannabis Industry Club that features a “Higher Margins” speaker series and a yearly “SHECANN” conference focused on promoting opportunities for women and minorities. In New York City, Stern School of Business MBA students at New York University have their CannaBusiness Club that provides east coast-centered network events, career panels and experiential learning programs.
While some MBA students at these schools gravitate to launching their own startup companies in production or distribution, others are more interested in the investment side: working in venture capital or private equity. All are attracted to the ground-floor opportunities that remind them of the pre-Silicon Valley years and the chance to bring the sophisticated marketing, operations and distribution methods they have learned to growing businesses.