"We will be using basil in the cloning demonstration," Jones says, unfazed. "New Jersey didn't offer us any wiggle room to use live plants, and we didn't want to put anyone at risk for arrest."
Jones said that the landscape of marijuana laws was changing so quickly across the country that what is illegal today may well be legal tomorrow.
The $1,000, four-day horticultural seminar will be held in Bally's Casino, which was among the first legal gambling establishments in the country outside Nevada, in 1979. Students who earn high scores will receive certifications that could lead to jobs in an increasingly growing cannabis industry, Jones said.
Why was Atlantic City selected as the host? Jones said Oaksterdam sees opportunity on the East Coast and anticipates that cannabis devotees, patients, business entrepreneurs, and even regulators from around the region will flock to the class. New York, Delaware, and Connecticut are among the 23 states that have legalized medical marijuana, and Maine and Rhode Island allow patients to grow their own plants.
Polls suggest a majority favor medical marijuana and several other states, including Florida, are asking voters to decide.
"More than 50 percent of the students at Oaksterdam come from outside California," Jones said. "So we thought that rather than making you guys come to us, let's find a great town and bring it to the East." She said it's the first time Oaksterdam is presenting its normal 14-week course in a condensed crash course on the road.
At least one grower employed by a medical-marijuana dispensary in New Jersey got his training at the school's California campus. The grower, who declined to be named, said the certification helped him land the job.
Besides horticulture experts, speakers will address the business aspect of the cannabis industry. John Nicolazzo, an owner of Marijuana Doctors.com and the Medical Cannabis Network, said he will discuss the business opportunities in the industry. His company connects patients to doctors through a website.
"I will talk about the trials and tribulations of a start-up company," he said.
Lawyers will also speak at the Atlantic City seminar and offer tips on how to avoid prosecution.
"We don't advocate that people break the law, but we do suggest best practices for civil disobedience," Jones said. She said that many otherwise law-abiding citizens must grow marijuana illegally because of a medical condition.
Others, she said, may want to learn how to grow cannabis so that they are ready when it becomes legal in their state. "They may be clandestine growers now," she said, "but when the laws change, they will come out of the shadows and have the training they need to become employees and job creators of the future."