Ever since California legalized medical marijuana in 1996, more and more states have followed suit. Marijuana is now legal recreationally in 16 states and legal for medical purposes in 36. With legalization, cannabis has emerged as an entirely new industry — and colleges and universities are taking note.
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“The cannabis industry needs labor. They’re going to need to have pharmacologists, lab testing operators, cultivators, cultivation managers, and right now it’s hard to access that labor,” Papillion said. “There’s a real opportunity to use more forms of education that don’t involve people sitting in the classroom.”
Is a Cannabis Degree Necessary for Career Success?
“For a lot of these startups and the private enterprises, there’s no way to tell what’s actually beneficial to students and what is snake oil salespeople,” said Papillion.
The marijuana industry’s exponential growth in the last several years created numerous opportunities in the mainstream economy. But kinks in the industry, including regulatory ones, are still being worked out. To that extent, it is still nascent and needs a professionally-trained workforce to firm up its contours. Currently, there are relatively few colleges or universities that train students in this field. Here is a brief primer on growth prospects for marijuana-related courses and colleges that offer them.
Why Does the Marijuana Industry Need Professionals?
The University of Vermont now offers a variety of online classes and certificates related to marijuana. Online cannabis science and medicine modules are available, with access to materials unlocked within 24 hours. Furthermore, the University of Vermont grants Cannabis Science and Medicine Professional Certificates and Professional Certificates in Cannabis Plant Biology. The certificate programs are fully online, and students can finish them in less than two months.
The marijuana industry is becoming increasingly respectable and creating high-paying jobs in the process. Cannabis consultants, dispensary operators, cannabis extraction technicians, grow masters, and marijuana chefs all have the potential to earn significant amounts.
Students in the Medicinal Plant Chemistry program learn to grow cannabis and formulate herbal medicine. As they work toward their chemistry degree, students can focus on one of two tracks—the “Entrepreneurial track” supplements their study with business and accounting classes, and the “Bio-analytical track” offers advanced topics in chemistry and biology.
Northern Michigan University, Degree in Medicinal Plant Chemistry (Marquette, MI)
Federally funded state universities now offer courses in cannabis across majors as diverse as agriculture, chemistry, economics, and journalism, which is a significant step in legitimizing the plant. No longer is cannabis represented on campus by stoner kids in Grateful Dead T-shirts in danger of failing freshman English. Now science majors are learning to make extracts and tinctures.
Colorado State University Pueblo, Minor in Cannabis Studies (Pueblo, Colorado)
In the fall of 2018, University of Connecticut Professor Gerry Berkowitz taught a new, three-credit college course called “Horticulture of Cannabis: From Seed to Harvest,” and packed a 400-person lecture hall. The course was so popular that Berkowitz developed an online version, and in July 2019, 40 more students nationwide began watching him grow a hemp crop from seed.