A Denver-based medical marijuana company has awarded $1,000 scholarships to twenty different college students interested in the plant, with plans to do the same next year.
Veriheal, an online service that connects medical marijuana patients with doctors, recently split $20,000 among twenty students who demonstrated a passion for cannabis and innovative ideas to better the industry through essay submissions. The lone Colorado winner was Christina Hippensteel, a student at Metropolitan State University of Denver.
Hippensteel is currently working toward a degree in finance and hopes to open a sustainability-focused marijuana edibles bakery in the future. Her essay focused on eliminating non-recyclable material, such as plastic, from legal marijuana packaging, suggesting that states implement hemp-based plastic as a biodegradable alternative and ban single-use plastic in the pot industry altogether.
“The cannabis industry is known for being innovative and being the first in many things,” Hippensteel says. “Banning single-use plastic in the cannabis industry would further legitimize the industry and prove its commitment to the environment.”
The marijuana industry’s environmental impact has been tracked closer as legalization spreads across the country. A recent study published by Colorado State University on March 8 found that indoor marijuana cultivations produce greenhouse gas emissions that are on par with levels from that of the waste in the coal-mining industry, while research into electricity use and packaging waste has produced similarly concerning results. With strict regulations that fall short of promoting sustainable packaging, marijuana businesses have to get creative if they want to become eco-friendly.
“This scholarship, to me, is validation that my ideas for sustainability can be considered, and makes me confident that they can be implemented,” Hippensteel says.
This is the second year that Veriheal has awarded scholarships to college students interested in the future of the marijuana industry. Each winner will receive $1,000 to put toward tuition and expenses, according to the company, which will open another round of scholarship applications on March 31, 2022.
“The scholarship functions to create a diverse community and inclusive conversation around the cannabis plant, as well as to empower talented young adults to pursue their passions for cannabis,” says Anthony Dutcher, chief marketing officer at Veriheal. “By putting money directly into the hands of students who will propel the industry forward, Veriheal’s scholarship is an investment in the next generation of cannabis industry leaders and innovators.”
Pueblo County, an early local adopter of the recreational marijuana industry in Colorado, began annually awarding scholarship money funded by marijuana tax revenue to local institutions of higher learning in 2018. In 2021, the county awarded $2 million in scholarships.
Earlier this year, the Community College of Denver announced a new associate’s degree in cannabis business, while MSU Denver, where Hippensteel is currently enrolled, added courses in marijuana hospitality and cooking in 2020.