GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — While still young, the cannabis industry is growing in Michigan. One Grand Rapids-based grower and processor is teaming up with another Michigan-based cannabis business to pay it forward by helping to train the workforce of the future.

The groups are also working to infuse social equity into a booming business.

“It’s something the cannabis industry has talked a lot about but we haven’t seen a ton of action around it,” said Peter Marcus, the vice president of communications for Terrapin.

Terrapin is a minority-owned grower and processor of cannabis. The company opened the first stand-alone marijuana cultivation facility in the city of Grand Rapids in the summer of 2020.

“If I want to cut hair, I need to get a barber’s license. If I want to do nails, I have to get a cosmetology license … but if we’re going to call cannabis medicine, there’s no licensing or certification behind it. It made no sense to me,” said Sammie Rogers.

An idea was sparked when Marcus met Rogers, the founder and president of Higher Learning Institutions.

“I saw a gaping hole in the industry, especially in the state of Michigan, that there was a lack of workforce development, said Rogers.

Higher Learning Institutions in Pontiac is teaching the future leaders and work force of the cannabis industry.

Terrapin has offered up $20,000 for 20 scholarships to Higher Learning for people who have been adversely affected by the war on drugs.

“When we’re first talking about social equity, we’re talking about those who were deliberately harmed by a systemically racist and flawed drug policies that govern states in this country,” said Marcus.

Rogers says he has multiple family members and friends who have been arrested and carry felonies for marijuana possession. Now that cannabis is legal in Michigan, he believes it’s time to give those people a chance to thrive and grow in something that once held them back.

“If we just put some education behind us with this, it will make us look and be more of a serious player in the industry,” said Rogers.

JARS Cannabis, a Michigan-based cannabis brand a retailer, has also put up money toward the social equity scholarships.

The accelerated program will teach cultivation, extraction, cannabis consultation and business subjects like applying for licensing and networking.

“The goal is to build their network and get them around certain people and hopefully we can get them connected to better investment or opportunity,” said Rogers.

It’s a win-win for Terrapin. The company is addressing the social equity equation while potentially growing their business and reach.

“We’re a wholesaler, so it actually is beneficial for us to see more dispensaries and to have more trusted partners in the space, because then there’s the potential to sell our product at those stores, just as there’s the opportunity for these folks to get into the game themselves,” said Marcus.

More information and the scholarship application can be found online.

— Correction: A previous version of this story incorrectly indicated the type of business JARS Cannabis is. We regret the error, which has been fixed.