Cannabis studies continue to grow in US colleges

Schools prepare students for $28 billion industry

With the growing popularity of medicinal marijuana and legal hemp-based products such as CBD oils and creams, colleges and universities are seeing the wisdom of preparing students for this burgeoning industry.

Medical marijuana is now legal in 33 states and the District of Columbia, and recreational usage is permitted in 11 states. Because of these changing mores and the continuing destigmatization of cannabis, colleges and universities are seeing new opportunities for education.

The U.S. cannabis market, if legalized, could be worth $28 billion today and $41 billion by 2028 “on a pre-tax basis,” according to an analyst from Barclays. If taxed at the same level as tobacco, a $41 billion cannabis market could be worth nearly $28 billion in tax revenues.

Schools across the country, including Doane University in Nebraska, Minot State University, the University of Denver, Vanderbilt Law School,  and the University of California, Davis, are offering a variety of cannabis-focused four-year undergraduate degree programs, certification classes and even graduate degrees. Course topics include medical research, legal issues, dispensary operations and more.

Northern Michigan University’s Medicinal Plant Chemistry program was the first U.S. undergraduate major in the study of cannabinoids. Besides tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the primary psychoactive compound in cannabis, there are at least 113 different cannabinoids that exhibit various effects, notes associate professor Brandon Canfield, who launched the program in 2017.

Students who graduate from the program’s bio-analytical track can work in botanical medicine, and those on the entrepreneurial path might start their own medical marijuana facility.

“It is, essentially, a chemistry degree but with different emphases on business and entrepreneurial disciplines,” Canfield says.

According to Hemp Industry Daily cannabis businesses are watching this educational trend because there is a shortage of people highly knowledgeable about advanced cannabis business, technology and legal/compliance topics.

But four-year schools don’t have a monopoly on these studies. Oakton Community College in Des Plaines, Illinois, is one of a few two-year schools to join the trend. About 100 students at Oakton are enrolled in the program, where they learn about marijuana policy, the history of the plant, dispensary operations and which strains of marijuana could help with various medical issues. OCC also offers a Cannabis Dispensary and Patient Care certificate program, which trains students for jobs in medical marijuana dispensaries.

And, before anyone thinks this industry is merely a pipe dream, employment opportunities for this new field are growing as fast as, well, weeds. National and international brands are making huge investments in this new field, including Anheuser-Busch InBev, Constellation Brands, Scotts Miracle-Gro, Molson Coors Brewing—and even EstÁ©e Lauder, which has launched a line of beauty products containing cannabis.

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