Syracuse U. sees cannabis growth, starts certificate program

Several institutions are capitalizing on the non-credit online course trend that provides students paths to the industry.
By: | April 28, 2021
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The cannabis industry is expected to grow by 33% to around $97 billion globally in the next five years. Those projections have piqued the interest of a number of colleges and universities looking to attract new students.

Although there are complexities to starting up cannabis-based programs – not the least of which is that the plant remains illegal in several states and is still prohibited by the federal government – those accredited institutions that overcome hurdles can open up an array of new opportunities.

Syracuse University is one of those exploring the growing field. On Wednesday, it announced it will team up with online cannabis education leader Green Flower on non-credit certificates in Cannabis Education.

This summer, Syracuse will offer three, eight-week courses in different disciplines – the Business of Cannabis, Agriculture and Horticulture; Law and Policy; and Healthcare and Medicine – to prospective students through its University College of continuing education and professional studies. Officials say the program will piggyback on existing credentials and “advance the knowledge and practice of cannabis for professionals across multiple sectors.”

“These new market-sensitive certificates represent Syracuse University’s role in supporting growth-oriented economic initiatives in New York State,” says Michael Frasciello, dean of University College. “Online alternative credentials such as these certificates are designed to meet the growing demand for skills-based careers in emerging fields and sustainability-based industries, particularly among adult learners.”

It helped that the state of New York just three weeks ago made recreational use of marijuana legal, though Syracuse has said it will not allow marijuana use on its campus.

“With the new legalization of cannabis in New York and neighboring states, cannabis knowledge and education will be in high demand and extremely popular as people begin to navigate the legal cannabis landscape and find ways to be a part of the predicted record growth,” said Daniel Kalef, Vice President of Higher Education at Green Flower. “We can think of no better university or group of people in the Empire State with whom to partner and are excited to begin offering these programs to the public this summer.”

Others jumping on board

Green Flower’s educational resources and connections to industry leaders, scientists and entrepreneurs – and its penchant to be able to deliver those services through virtual platforms – are also being tapped by many other institutions, including Florida Atlantic University, which recently signed on for six-month, non-credit certificate programs. Northern Michigan University, the University of California at Riverside, the University of San Diego, Mount Aloysius College and Northwest Missouri State University are just some of the others taking advantage of the programs.

The company says the certificates can help students launch careers with several businesses in California and Florida and seek options through the CannabizTeam recruiting network that it says finds industry jobs for 2,000 people each year. The cannabis industry is not small, employing around 350,000 people.

“The business of cannabis is one of the fastest-growing new market opportunities in the world that is desperately in need of well-trained talent,” said Max Simon, Founder and CEO of Green Flower. “These schools starting their programs now will have a first-mover advantage in their region and will not only help their students get great jobs, they will be seen as thought leaders and industry pioneers.”

Two other institutions – Western Washington University and St. Joseph’s University – have taken advantage of the certificate programs and found success. Like Syracuse, the St. Joseph’s program offers students a chance to explore business, law and policy, healthcare, and agriculture and horticulture.

“Our academic portfolio is ever expanding and evolving with society, student, and industry needs, interests and requirements while also remaining grounded in our liberal arts and Jesuit traditions. Our new cannabis offerings are a great example of where those goals converge,” said Cheryl McConnell, provost and vice president for academic affairs at Saint Joseph’s. “While business, policy, healthcare and agriculture scramble to keep up with regulatory changes, we can educate professionals with the industry acumen and ethical framework needed to support each of these fields.”

This is serious business.

Cannabis studies in higher education are not new and encompass a wide range of fields, including science, law, business, chemistry, botany, math and herbalism. The University of California at Davis has had its own Cannabis and Hemp Research Center for several years, while institutions such as Northern Michigan University, Lake Superior State University, the University of Vermont and University of Washington all offer some form of degree or certificate programs.

Florida Gulf Coast University, for example, offers students the chance to earn an Integrated Studies degree (essentially one in Cannabis Studies) by taking 30 credit hours that features 3-credit courses such as Drugs, Mind, Body and Society; Marijuana Law; The Pharmacology and Physiology of Cannabis and The Chemistry of Medicinal Plants.

More recently, Morehouse’s College of Medicine partnered with Trulieve Cannabis Corporation on medical cannabis research and education, where the two will combine efforts on courses and seminars that will discuss medical marijuana use and production. Morehouse, Trulieve and the Atlanta University Center are planning “new minor or medical cannabis sub-specialty offerings” as well as opportunities such as career fairs and internships.