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What I Learned at the Oaksterdam Grow Seminar


Oaksterdam University, the world’s foremost cannabis education institution, was founded in 2007 in Oakland, California. Since then, it’s grown into an internationally recognized college, with more than 30,000 graduates of 12-week courses on the main Oakland campus and educational seminars in cities around the country.


Oaksterdam University Dean of Students, Dr. Aseem Sappal, gives a lecture during a seminar in Denver.

In November, I attended the four-day Oaksterdam indoor horticulture seminar at the Plaza Hotel in Las Vegas. Having been out of college for only six months, I’d already just about completely forgotten what it was like to be a student, and had no idea what to expect when class started on the first day of the seminar. I walked into the convention hall, collected my textbooks and saw more than a hundred other attendees waiting for the program to begin. After opening remarks by Dean of Faculty Dr. Aseem Sappal, we jumped right into the marijuana material.

The first lecture was given by attorney Amanda Conner, who discussed the various legal issues that people entering the cannabis industry often face. The topics included land zoning, production permits, odor control, waste disposal and security measures. The importance of doing research and making sure you know the local laws was emphasized, since each adult-use or medical state has their own set of regulations.

The bulk of the seminar was devoted to growing cannabis. We learned horticulture basics like nutrients, watering, growth cycles, seed germination and transplanting; it brought back memories of freshman botany lectures at Purdue. Other subjects were completely new to me, such as how to design a grow room, and the differences between growing seeds and clones. A large amount of time was spent on the different types of grow mediums to choose from, and weighing the advantages and disadvantages of each. Instructors Jeff Jones and Joey Ereneta also focused on the flowering stage, and how to optimize the plant for the best buds. There was so much information that I’m pretty sure I learned more in two days at Oaksterdam than I did in some of my full-semester courses at Purdue.

Besides the sheer amount of content, what really impressed me about Oaksterdam was the excellent teaching staff. All three of the instructors were extremely knowledgeable, and took time to answer every question they were asked. Amanda Connor has more than 15 years of experience as a lawyer, and the grow instructors each have more than 20 years of horticulture experience. They were funny, friendly and encouraged questions from the students, and there wasn’t a single question the instructors failed to adequately answer.

The students attending the seminar represented diverse professional backgrounds and ethnicities. One student I met designs and operates lighting systems for various shows in Vegas, and wanted to apply his illumination knowledge to grow rooms. An American military veteran, who attended thanks to Oaksterdam’s Veterans Day scholarship, was seeking a new career path after the military. Two other students were cannabis activists from Guam, looking to bring their newly acquired knowledge and experience back to friends, family and colleagues on the island territory. While some were completely new to cannabis, others were already master growers, sent to the seminar by their production companies to brush up on the fine points. “I know 90% of the material they’re giving, but that last 10% is priceless,” one of the growers told me. “I got every single question I had answered.”

After attending the Las Vegas seminar, a large part of me definitely wished I’d pursued the very affordable Oaksterdam certification rather than a four-year engineering degree at Purdue, complete with pricey student loans. The complete Oaksterdam seminar costs $1,095; you can also attend the first part of the seminar for $695. Their semesters at the Oaksterdam campus run from $695–$1,645. They also held a seminar in New York on Dec. 3–6, and have yet to announce where seminars will take place in 2017.

But here is one exclusive tip Dr. Sappal told me: “We’re very excited to start expanding to provide even more cannabis education through a new Las Vegas campus and online courses that will be coming very soon.” So stay tuned for more exciting updates.

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