In the November/December 2021 issue of the Dartmouth Alumni Magazine, Lauren Fontein ‘02, owner of a posh marijuana store in Los Angeles called “The Artist Tree,” graced the cover. The subsequent article went into detail about Fontein’s store, the responsibilities of the cannabis industry in selling a consistent product, and Fontein’s knack for business law.
In the following January/February 2022 issue, however, alumni were upset by cannabis making the cover. In the “readers react” section of the magazine, Kristin Piscano ‘89, wrote “I do not think we should carelessly celebrate [marijuana] on the cover of our magazine. Nor do I see why we should hold someone who makes money off of other people’s vice in such high regard.”
Whether weed is a vice or not remains up to question. But it's a fact that as marijuana laws loosen around the country, other universities including Boston College will have to reckon with their stance on students entering the cannabis industry and finding success.
This success is abundant in weed. The global legal marijuana market size was valued at USD 9.1 billion in 2020 and is expected to expand at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 26.7% from 2021 to 2028. Cannabis is seen as a reliable source of high growth revenue in the post-COVID economy in states like New York. This means in young, swinging cities across the country, cannabis jobs are plentiful.
BC students are taking advantage of these opportunities. Olivia Mosholt, MCAS ‘21, moved to LA after graduating to work in the human relations department for SHO Products LLC, an international manufacturing and distribution cannabis company which focuses on the development, growth and marketing of premium brands and products like “Dab Nation,” “Cheeba Chews,” and “Be Lit.” Mosholt used her Communications major and Management and Leadership minor to secure a normal HR position, but was quickly promoted when her manager quit a month in. She’s now the HR and Investor Relations Manager for the 60+ person company.
“The cannabis field is extremely volatile,” Mosholt says on a walk near her apartment in Torrance, California. “There’s not a lot of structure in it at all. It was really overwhelming to be a manager at first and I taught myself everything I needed to do on the fly.”
The whiplash Mosholt experienced was lessened by some of her experiences at BC. She specifically credits the course “Venture Capitalism” with helping her to learn about the different stages of startups, funding, and how they work. Her knowledge of cannabis also helps.
“I first took cannabis in high school in lieu of medicine,” Mosholt says candidly. “I thought it was very healing. Seeing the progression and adaptation to it and understanding the benefits piqued my interest in the business.”
Marijuana’s healing properties are its greatest attraction in the United States. Harvard Health notes that it’s valuable in treating chronic pain and it can replace the less safe, more addictive opiates. Mosholt doesn’t get high on the job though, despite her company allowing it. “People back home think it’s ridiculous when I tell them,” Mosholt says. “I personally don’t because I work better when I’m not high.”
Logan Sands, CSOM ‘20, tends to agree with this sentiment, foregoing weed until after work. Sands studied Marketing and Business Analytics at BC and has found similarly rapid success in the cannabis industry. After interning during his junior summer for Sunderstorm Inc., a distributor for Kanha Gummies, Sands was able to secure a full time position with them. He rose rapidly through their ranks and is now the Systems Manager and head of National Cannabinoid Sourcing, meaning he buys all distillate, isolated THC, CBD, and CBN. If Kanha is the dealer, Sands is the supplier.
Sands has six employees that work for him, including some with masters degrees. He’s flown around the country sourcing cannabinoids, has attended trade shows in Vegas where growers have treated him to $600 dinners, and he’s flown to remote multi-hundred acre weed grows on private jets.
“The industry is a lot of fun,” Sands says from his office in Glendale, California. “Everyone’s relatively young and dedicated.”
Sands’ glamorous lifestyle isn’t without hard work. He estimates he works 80 to 90 hours a week, calculating the ratios of cannabinoids going into their products and expanding the small company. “These are real corporations, it’s not just a bunch of stoners running an industry,” Sands says. “Everyone works hard as f--k.”
Despite the real business of cannabis, however, Sands still sees a stigma among his peers. He doesn’t tell his moms’ extended family what he really does for fear of their reaction. He mentions emailing back and forth with former BC professors to speak to current CSOM students, only to be given the cold shoulder when he says he works in cannabis. “They’re all cautious of it,” Sands says. “But eventually it’s going to be a nationwide accepted thing, and after you work in it for a while, you stop giving a s--t about the stigma.”
The stigma has been erased for some Sands’ peers. Sands confesses that he regularly sends gummies back home to his parents’ friends in Minnesota who use it for sleep medication or for chronic pain, specifically cancer in one persons’ case.
“BC taught me I wanted to help people in some way or fashion,” Sands says. “Cannabis is a medicine for a lot of people and I would argue I’ve done way more than any f--king investment banker.”
Both Sands and Mosholt, however, didn’t find or get any help in their search for cannabis jobs while at BC. It’s widely known that BC’s student body leans towards alcohol and drinking instead of weed, but the school’s career center is equally biased. On BC’s Handshake, a website for job searches, several jobs for beer manufacturers, merchandisers, and distributors pop up, while none do for cannabis. Alcohol has equal—if not worse—health effects than marijuana, and yet the school shies away from taking a stance on the latter substance.
This may just be a function of legality, though. Joseph DuPont, Associate Vice President of Career Services, wrote in an email that “we do not post jobs from cannabis employers because the law is unsettled as to whether cannabis is legal. Schools like BC could potentially jeopardize their federal funding by promoting its recreational use.” This especially rings true in Massachusetts, where the state government legalized cannabis, but is simultaneously breaking federal law. DuPont points to a New York Times article that emphasizes the tensions where former Attorney General Jeff Sessions is quoted as comparing cannabis to heroin.
DuPont, however, holds no prejudice against the cannabis industry. “Our goal is to help you use your gifts and talents in a way that you find meaningful,” he writes. “If a student wanted to learn more about the cannabis industry, we would help.”
DuPont’s stance highlights the ever-present turmoil over cannabis in the country. From living rooms in Minnesota, to university administrations in New England, to federal courtrooms in Washington D.C, the debate rages on over legally and publicly acknowledging cannabis’ legitimacy. The proof is in the money, though. Marijuana will continue to grow physically and financially no matter its public standing. Even Republican Congress members like Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-NC), who once said of Democrats fighting for legalization, “what a joke,” are changing their course. Foxx is now the most heavily cannabis-invested Congress member with somewhere between 79k to $210k in Altria stock.
And some schools are changing too. In addition to the Dartmouth Alumni Magazine’s bold cover, schools like the University of Maryland are starting masters programs in “medical cannabis,” and Cornell University has a CannaBusiness group on campus that brings speakers from the field to speak to the students. BC may need to reconsider the industry and move from Budweiser to a different kind of bud in the near future.