Call it “Pot Entrepreneurship 101.” A seminar held by the Marijuana Business Academy, in Colorado Springs, teaches people how to invest in the burgeoning cannabis industry and start a marijuana business of their own.
It’s just one example of how the increasing legalization of pot is fueling a mini-boom in classes for novices looking to make money in the pot industry. Like any business niche, there are a lot of nuances to learn and pitfalls to avoid.
“We realized that there’s a lot of people out there who do not have enough information to get into this industry and there’s a lot of folks that want to invest money and talent that the industry needs,” said Charles Houghton, the academy’s co-founder and a lawyer who has operated legal marijuana dispensaries.
He and his partner, KC Stark, charge participants $299 per one-day session, which run from 9 a.m. to 4:20 p.m. (an appropriate end-time that holds a special significance in pot culture). Their goal is to teach attendees about the regulatory complexities of starting a marijuana business like the applications process, securing funding and navigating legal obstacles.
The academy, normally held in the offices of a Denver-based cannabis company accelerator called Green Labs Denver, is not the first, or the only, business in the industry aimed at educating hopeful entrepreneurs. Others looking to capitalize include the Cannabis Career Institute, which offers similar one-day courses around the country – also for $299 per session – that cover everything from marijuana marketing to licensing issues and even offers tips on cooking up marijuana-infused edible goods. Meanwhile, the Florida MMTC Institute offers aclasses costing up to $499 that focus on the very new regulatory framework of medical marijuana sales in that state.
After decades of operating in the shadows, the marijuana industry is quickly gaining legitimacy. It started with states legalizing pot sales for medicinal purposes. Such sales are permitted in 23 states, currently. It then shifted to voters in Colorado and Washington approving recreational pot dispensaries while two more states, Alaska and Oregon, are planning similar referendums.
Each legislative success for the pot industry means big gains for the industry and further appetite for classes teaching the marijuana trade. Fortune has already written about the expanding market for edible products infused with cannabis, as well as online repositories for information and reviews of marijuana.
Enter Stark and Houghton, who previously served on a medical marijuana task force for Colorado Springs that helped shapes the city’s regulations. Houghton says he was also consulted when the state legalized sales of recreational marijuana.
Houghton says he and Stark decided to start their academy four years ago after seeing a need for their expertise. Their sessions are full of advice about what would-be “ganjapreneurs” can expect after obtaining the necessary approvals to operate a medical or retail shop, or a related business, including finding a commercial space, incorporating the business, and setting up the company’s tax structure.
As Houghton put it, the classes teach “the nuts and bolts of how you do the business.”
His academy runs sessions in Colorado at least once a month, with the number of attendees approaching 100 per session, he said. They also put on the occasional session in other states with recently-passes laws allowing the sale of medical marijuana, including Florida and Illinois.
There are plans to expand nationally and even sell shares in their company on the public markets. The academy recently announced a reverse merger with shell company Iconic Brands – a former alcoholic beverage company – that would allow Houghton and Stark to list their company on the over-the-counter market under a new name and stock symbol that have yet to be determined.
Like the marijuana business, their planned path to the public markets via a reverse merger isn’t exactly textbook. Typically, small companies use the technique to avoid the long and intense regulatory scrutiny of an initial public offering and the high costs of completing all the paperwork.
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