Video Duration: 19:37

Reference Materials: Cannabis Plant Training

Welcome to the Cannabis Workforce Initiative The Cannabis Plant course. My name is David Serrano, I’m the CWI project manager and your guide to industry jobs and best practices. This course is intended to be a high-level overview of the cannabis plant structures, and the various practices deployed to cultivate this plant. It’s important to note that this course is not a substitute for on-the-job training, or an academic approach to certification and/or credentialing. Although there are a number of entry level jobs in the cannabis industry that require no degrees or certifications, we encourage viewers to consider a certificate or degree path from one of our network educators. Having a degree or certificate can oftentimes make your resume more competitive, and give you confidence in your future role. You can find a growing list of partners at 

This presentation, The Cannabis Plant, is brought to you by the Cannabis Workforce Initiative (CWI). 

The New York State Cannabis Workforce Initiative is a collaboration between the New York State School of Industrial and Labor Relations at Cornell University and the New York Workforce Development Institute. Our mission is to promote and support social equity in the adult-use cannabis market, by providing quality workforce development and legal education. Our work, supported by a state budget appropriation, prioritizes diversity, equity, and quality jobs in the emerging cannabis industry. We do this through skills training, entrepreneurism services, workforce supports, legal education for employees and employers, and the development of high-road career pathways. 

Together, we’re laying the groundwork to create tens of thousands of new jobs in this emerging industry. We want to help individuals explore multiple career pathways — from seed to sale. Whether it’s cultivation, testing, operations, or entrepreneurism, there are multiple pathways into this industry. That’s why education and training will be key to ensuring your success! 

Cannabis sativa was first domesticated in early Neolithic times in East Asia. All current hemp and cannabis plants diverged from an ancestral gene pool currently represented by feral plants and local strains in China. Evidence of cannabis spans the entire globe for thousands of years. The earliest known use of Cannabis sativa in the United States dates back to 1619, when Jamestown Colony, Virginia enacted a law ordering all farmers to grow hemp. Massachusetts and Connecticut are among other colonies that also enacted some form of pro-cannabis laws. U.S. Presidents George Washinton and Thomas Jefferson both grew cannabis, and Benjamin Franklin started one of America’s first paper mills using cannabis fibers. From 1842-1890 cannabis medicine represented the top three selling medicines in the United States. Cannabis continued to be used for medicine until the 1930’s. 

It was around that time, also known as the Reefer Madness era, that cannabis was renamed to marijuana / marihuana by Harry J. Anslinger, the Chief of the Federal Bureau of Narcotic (the predecessor to the Drug Enforcement Agency. Meanwhile, media outlets, owned by known-racist, began to simultaneously associate marijuana with migrant Latino populations, violent crime, and black people. In 1937, Anslinger testified before congress and said “Marijuana is the most violence-causing drug in America.” His campaign against Cannabis-sativa led to the passage of the Marihuana Tax Act of 1937, under which the importation, cultivation, possession and/or distribution of marijuana were regulated.


The campaign against cannabis heated up again in the 1950s and 60s. Under the Boggs Act of 1952 and the Narcotics Control Act of 1956, a first-offense marijuana possession carried a minimum sentence of 2 to 10 years, with a fine of up to $20,000. In 1968, we saw the creation of the Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs, which was a merger of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics and the Bureau of Dangerous Drugs of the Food and Drug Administration.

The Shafer Commission, appointed by President Nixon at the direction of Congress, considered laws regarding marijuana and determined that personal use of marijuana should be decriminalized. President Nixon rejected this recommendation. 

During that time, we also saw the creation of the US Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), a merger of the Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs (BNND) and the Office of Drug Abuse Law Enforcement (ODALE). Most notably, the establishment of the Controlled Substance Act (CSA) which gave way to modern day criminalization and penalties.

1990’s – Today

When it came to marijuana, arrests were always disproportionately made based on race. More than six million arrests occurred between 2010 and 2018, and in every state black people were more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession. In fact, black people are nearly four times more likely than white people to be arrested for marijuana possession, despite comparable usage rates among racial groups. Under Stop and Frisk NYC, in 1999, Blacks and Latinos made up 50 percent of New York’s population, but accounted for 84 percent of the city’s stops. Those statistics have changed little in more than a decade.

Systemic Effects – Lifelong Consequences

In 1970, The National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) was formed by attorney Mr. Kieth Stroup. Since its founding, NORML has provided a voice in the public policy debate for those Americans who oppose marijuana prohibition and favor an end to the practice of arresting marijuana consumers. A nonprofit public-interest advocacy group, NORML represents the interests of the tens of millions of Americans who use marijuana responsibly. During the 1970s, NORML led successful efforts to decriminalize minor marijuana offenses in 11 states and significantly lower marijuana penalties in all others. NORML inspired grass roots movements nationally and globally. Today, there are hundreds of movements fighting for global legalization.

After more than two decades of fierce advocacy efforts, various grass root movements lobbied for the successful passage of Proposition 215, Medical Marijuana Initiative (1996). Soon after California legalized medical marijuana, other states like Colorado, Washington, Oregon followed suit, enacting their own medical bills. In 2012, Colorado and Washington became the first two states to legalize the recreational use of cannabis following the passage of Amendment 64 and Initiative 502. Today, 37 states have a medical cannabis program and 19 states have an adult use program. 

New York legalized medical cannabis in 2014, in 2019 the Cannabis Workforce Initiative was created in alignment with the MRTA mission to support social equity. The MRTA later passed in 2021. 

From prohibition, to criminalization, to re-legalization, the cannabis plant has managed to escape its demise from the hand of humankind. Today, there are thousands of strains that are generally categorized into hemp, which has no psychoactive properties, and Cannabis-sativa which has a psychoactive effect. For the purposes of this segment, when referring to cannabis, I will be speaking about Cannabis-sativa. 

Cannabis is an annual, dioecious, flowering herb. The plant consists of roots, a stalk, stems, leaves, leafy inflorescence (buds) and reproductive organs. The female plant produces seeds from its Ovule or seed-pod, while a male plant produces pollen from its anther, also known as a pollen sac. 

However, the star of the show comes from a nearly microscopic female gland, known as the trichome, or glandular trichome. Trichomes are a resin that houses all cannabinoids and terpenes, the chemicals that produce the fragrances and euphoric effects this entire industry is built around.

A common practice to produce more potent trichomes is to stress the female plant. The most common low-stress practice in the cultivation of the female plant is depriving her of pollen, which is why most cannabis on the market today lacks any seeds. This practice is known as sinsemilla. Sinsemilla is defined as a highly potent marijuana from female plants that are specially tended and kept seedless by preventing pollination in order to induce a high resin content. 

Like all plants, cannabis needs food and water to survive. Food for plants is taken up / absorbed by their roots. Roots are designed to uptake micronutrients and water. Nutrients are naturally produced in living soil, where beneficial microbes work to break down decaying matter into essential nutrients. Common nutrients are Nitrogen (N) , Phosphorus (P) Potassium (K) Calcium (Cl), and Magnesium (Mg) to name a few. Advanced cultivators will balance decaying matter and microbes to produce environmentally friendly regenerative soil. Others will simply purchase nutrients and soils from the market, although it’s quick and easy, it also produces significant plastic waste and carbon-emission from supply chain power demands. 

Cannabis plants thrive on a healthy supply of water. However, water chemistry also plays a very important role. Cultivators will usually seek to measure and control three things: Alkalinity, PH, and concentration of dissolved minerals. Cannabis requires a lot of water. An outdoor mature plant will consume on average  5-6 gallons of water per day, in the growing season which typically lasts 150 days (June-Oct), whereas indoor mature plants consume about 2 gallons a day per plant in the growing season. 

Other environmental needs to produce a happy and healthy cannabis plant are temperature and humidity control. These conditions are controlled indoors through the deployment of custom Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning systems, also known as HVAC and custom dehumidifiers. Although each strain has its specific recipe, the plant generally does best in temperatures between 80 and 85 degrees. Young plants enjoy higher humidity levels around 70%, whereas mature plants prefer around 55-65%. 

Cultivators spend a lot of time identifying and preventing various threats like root rot, hail damage, flooding, power outages, migratory bird waste, and pests. A major aspect of commercial cultivation is Integrated Pest Management (IPM) and Biosecurity Practices. 

IPM integrates various best practices to prevent, detect, and treat pest issues. Some common pests are aphids, spider mites, mold, and mildew. Cultivators can deploy naturally beneficial bugs to destroy pests. A common friend of cannabis is the ladybug. They love to eat aphids and cause no harm to the cannabis plant. Other more aggressive methods include the use of pesticides. These processes are tightly monitored to ensure quality and safety of the plant before it reaches consumer markets. 

Biosecurity is the union of various industry best practices that includes the way physical building structures are designed. Designs take into consideration methods to prevent pests from entering and/or damaging plants. For instance, the way air moves in space can be controlled to ensure clean air in spaces where plants are vulnerable. This is done in a number of ways, to include the deployment of carbon filters, ultraviolet,and Ozone air treatments, positively pressurizing certain spaces, and frequent air circulation. Another, low-tech method is simply controlling doors to ensure spaces are sealed to prevent pests or spores from entering rooms. In cases of pest infestations, simply having doors closed can prevent issues from spreading throughout the facilities. 

These practices are generally exclusive to indoor cultivation and some greenhouse cultivation facilities. 

Although outdoor cultivations are generally a more cost effective approach to cultivation, they are susceptible to the most threats. Threats include nutrient deficiencies, too much or too little water, excessive heat or freezing temperatures, bugs, rodents, hail damage, flooding, mold and mildew. Outdoor cultivations are generally limited to summer – fall.

Some greenhouses can be designed to provide conditions similar to an indoor facility, while utilizing the power of the sun, thus reducing the carbon emissions since artificial lighting is significantly reduced. In short, cultivators have a higher degree of controlling environmental factors utilizing indoor structures, then outdoor structures. 

To access and harness all of the benefits of the cannabis plant, cultivators need to constantly care for and support these plants to ensure the highest quality products. Here are some examples of products that can be found in various markets around the country and that could soon be produced at a small business near you. 

Scene 8 Outro:  

Let’s review what we have covered so far:

Plant History


1990’s – Today

Systemic Effects – Lifelong Consequences

Road to Legalization

Cannabis Plant Anatomy 

Overview of Plant Cultivation and Environment 

Various Plant Uses

Thats it for now. On behalf of the entire team at the Cannabis Workforce Initiative, we wish you the best and hope you find our programming helpful in your cannabis industry studies. Stay tuned for more content that showcases specific job opportunities, as well as the basic day-to-day responsibilities of these jobs. 

Next up: “Cannabis Hospitality”