Are cannabis programs set to become higher education’s next darling?

Cannabis is a nearly $1 billion industry in Oregon and Nevada and is set to hit $7 billion in New York by 2025.

The potential for cannabis cultivation in the United States is so high that not even the Pope, who is against its legalization, could dissuade Saint Louis University (Mo.) from opening its Cannabis Science and Operations certificate program.

Self-described as “one of the nation’s oldest and most prestigious Catholic universities,” the university resides in a state that legalized the medicinal use of cannabis in 2018 and has since witnessed a major proliferation of dispensary licenses awarded, including 70 in the St. Louis area in just two years.

“Legalized cannabis is expected to be an estimated $150 billion industry by 2025,” program manager Stacy Godlewski said in a press statement. “In addition to Missouri, thousands of jobs are being created across the country, and there is an emerging need for educated employees to support and sustain the industry.”

By 2028, others put the cannabis industry’s market cap at nearly $200 billion. Consequently, higher education institutions are taking notice as they continue to offer flexible, affordable and enticing programs to attract students.

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State economic impact

The popularization of cannabis programs comes at a cross-section of relaxed legal sanctions and a resulting economic boom. As of today, 22 states have legalized marijuana both medicinally and recreationally, including Missouri in 2022, which sells roughly $4 million worth of marijuana each day. In the first four months New York opened its dispensaries, it made $16.5 million in retail revenue. Additionally, cannabis is a nearly $1 billion industry in Oregon and Nevada and is set to hit $7 billion in New York by 2025.

With such a promising financial evaluation, workforce demand is bound to expand with it. By 2027, New York posits the industry to employ over 50,000 people who will take home more than $2 billion in earnings.

“It’s an exploding industry within the United States, so that creates a ripe opportunity for rapid movement and rapid expansion,” said Dain Meza-Gotto, director of workforce development at Joliet Junior College (Illinois), which launched its cannabis studies program this past spring, Daily Herald reports.

Flexible, cost-effective programs

Colleges and universities are offering a variety of short-term, highly flexible and cost-friendly programs that educate students on a wide array of disciplines in cannabis, including its cultivation, processing and sales and dispensary management.

Portland Community College offers three different programs which span only nine weeks and cost less than a thousand dollars. Moreover, Medgar Evers is beginning to provide tuition-free associate and bachelor’s degrees in cannabis studies for qualifying students, and the University of Nevada just announced a scholarship opportunity for its four online certificate programs. Students who take Oakton College’s (Illinois) certificate program can transfer to Northern Michigan University to complete a bachelor’s degree in medicinal plant chemistry.

Legitimate partnerships

Higher education institutions frequently partner with outside companies to help create a legitimate curriculum. One of the most popular include Green Flower, which has worked with the University of Nevada; Metropolitan Community College, Kansas City and Portland Community College. Additionally, Onondaga Community College in New York recently partnered with the Cleveland School of Cannabis to provide several different certificate programs.

“The economic impact is becoming difficult to ignore. When you see the kind of revenue generation, the tax data, the job data increasingly schools are acknowledging that this is a space that needs well-trained workers and the community is looking for it,” said Max Simon, CEO of Green Flower, FOX 4 KC, reports.

Alcino Donadel
Alcino Donadel
Alcino Donadel is a UB staff writer and first-generation journalism graduate from the University of Florida. His beats have ranged from Gainesville's city development, music scene and regional little league sports divisions. He has triple citizenship from the U.S., Ecuador and Brazil.

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