Ashley Loflin-Hill, also known as Coach Ash, is a 2021 graduate of the MS in Medical Cannabis Science and Therapeutics (MCST) program. She is the CEO and co-founder of Winning Coaching, which is a consulting company for the cannabis industry that helps business owners develop management teams.
What has been your career path up to now?
I’ve been working in the cannabis industry for the last 10 years. I started out in member services at a dispensary in California and then transitioned to the cultivation team. From there I was promoted to cultivation director for a multimillion-dollar indoor grow operation, which cultivated the High Times Award Winning Strain, “The True OG.” Currently, I connect my passion for personal and professional development with my knowledge and experience in the cannabis space, hence the birth of Winning Coaching.
What interested you in pursuing graduate education about medical cannabis science and therapeutics? What was your prior exposure to these topics?
Many people have become successful in the industry without any formal education, which is totally fine, but deep down, I wanted more credibility. My interest was to become part of something pioneering and unique – something that has not been done before. In addition, having an enhanced science-based education about cannabis is something that holds value now, as well as in the future.
What drew you to attend the University of Maryland School of Pharmacy (UMSOP)?
After completing my undergraduate degree and publishing my first cannabis-infused cookbook, “Smoke from the Pot,” a friend sent me the website for the MS in Medical Cannabis Science and Therapeutics at UMSOP. This piqued my interest for a few reasons. It was from an established and accredited university, the program was 95 percent online, and it allowed me to continue my life in California, where I work full-time.
What has your experience been like in the MS in MCST program?
I had a good experience in the MCST program. Like anything that has just been developed or rolled out for the first time, there are always some challenges and areas needing growth. The most important thing is being able to pivot and adjust to solve concerns, which the program did and is good at doing.
What were some of the highlights of the program?
The biggest highlight of the program has been its networking aspect. One of the first few online networking events in 2020 allowed me to connect with one of our first cannabis business clients; we still have a great working relationship with them to this day. Shout out to Tracey and the Peake Releaf team!
In addition to the virtual networking events, I am most grateful for the one and only time we were able to come together as a class and connect at the first-ever MCST symposium in September 2019. I know we all still wish we could have had a few more in-person interactions, but unfortunately the COVID-19 pandemic affected limited those events.
How do you plan to apply your knowledge and skills from this program into practice?
While I haven’t completely identified how I will leverage this degree, I do know it has increased my cannabis knowledge, language, and provided professional credibility. This allows me to bridge the gap when consulting with clients who are dispensary owners, manufacturers, cultivation companies, software companies, and other ancillary businesses. I am someone who has lived through a lot of the temporary challenges that are experienced in the cannabis space: employee retention, ineffective communication between departments, and creating a space of inclusion. For a long time, I struggled with the thought of professional and personal development intertwining within the cannabis industry. From what I hear from other business owners and leaders in the industry, professional development is needed now more than ever, so much that it should be required. I am grateful for the opportunity to provide those services.
What is your advice to prospective students who might be considering whether to apply to this program?
If you are interested in working in the cannabis space and want to be seen as an expert, this is the program for you. Don’t think your interest must be in one of the shiny areas that already exist in the industry like retail, cultivation, manufacturing, etc. If that is your interest, that’s cool too. One of the greatest things I love about this industry is having an opportunity to create just about anything you want. It won’t happen overnight, but the possibilities for innovation, education, and excitement, are endless. The MCST program can help streamline your success. Let’s WIN!
About the MCST program: The MS in Medical Cannabis Science and Therapeutics program provides students with the knowledge they need to support patients and the medical cannabis industry, add to existing research, and develop well-informed medical cannabis policy. The two-year program based at the Universities at Shady Grove in Rockville, Md., blends online instruction with face-to-face experiences to prepare graduates to respond to the increasing demand for medical cannabis with an understanding of the basic science and clinical uses of the cannabis plant. Learn more and apply today.