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Students learn complexities of the legalized cannabis industry

Written on May 1, 2020

By Jessica Salerno, OSCPA content manager

Traveling across the country with four college students to learn about the legalized marijuana industry might sound like the plot of a teen movie, but for one professor, it was an opportunity to expose students firsthand to a complex and growing industry.

“My thought was this would be an amazing opportunity to get students involved and think outside of the box as accountants,” said Justin Breidenbach, CPA, accounting professor at Ohio Wesleyan University. “They can deal with real world issues you don’t normally see in the textbooks.”

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In the third episode of our “The State of Business” podcast, “A trip inside the legalized marijuana industry,” we spoke with Breidenbach and his colleague, associate professor Emily West, on the trip they took to Washington State with four accounting students. Breidenbach has been studying the legalized cannabis industry for years, and as we’ve documented before, he’s traveled around the world for his research. 

The focus of the trip was “business and accounting,” and the group met with cultivators, growers, processors, manufacturers, retail shops and government regulators. Breidenbach said this experience was unique as it was the first time he could involve students directly with his research and consulting work. 

“This isn’t us being opposed to an industry or being a proponent to an industry,” he said. “But really just analyzing it and understanding the business and accounting complications that come along with operating in this space.”

The trip was made possible through an internal grant program at OWU called "theory to practice." Students can apply for consideration to travel and use what they’ve learned in the classroom to their area of interest. Expenses such as flights, housing, food and a rental car was paid through university grant funds.

We also spoke with two of the four students who went on the trip, Rachell Resnik and Luke Tompkins, about their perspective on the industry and how they feel this experience will better prepare them for their careers post-college. 

Listen to the podcast now to hear the perspective of the trip from the professors and the students, what it’s like to walk inside a massive grow room and more.