Call it higher education (pun intended). Colorado State University’s (CSU) Pueblo campus has received the okay from the state to start a cannabis chemistry bachelor’s degree program. These educational opportunities follow the development of other cannabis-related educational programs at other colleges and universities and reinforce the momentum generated by the expansion of the cannabis industry.
Colorado State University’s program supports scientific research. The addition of education opportunities signals a development desperately needed for a new industry with billions of dollars invested in it — one that is responsible for the creation of hundreds of thousands of jobs. Colorado’s marijuana dispensaries generated $1.72 billion in sales in 2019 alone — and that’s not even touching the different economic sectors related to cannabis that could cause additional jobs and income — for example, studying the science side of marijuana with a degree in cannabis chemistry could pay dividends.
The CSU program course is centered in math, physics, neurobiology, biochemistry, genetics, and analytical chemistry — but follows one of two tracks. One track focused on biology and the other route with an analytical chemistry perspective. The program is not pro-pot or anti-weed; it is a proactive response to the changing social climate about cannabis and focused on the science of the plant.
This program isn’t the first of its kind, and it’s certainly not going to be the last. As the cannabis industry matures, the number of higher education programs related to cannabis continues to grow. For example, in 2017, Northern Michigan University offered a ‘medicinal plant chemistry’ degree with a focus on marijuana. And last fall, at Michigan’s smallest state university, Lake Superior State, 41 students enrolled in a cannabis chemistry degree program.
Additionally, California’s UC Davis offered an undergraduate course on the physiology of cannabis. Likewise, in 2018, Ohio’s Hocking College was given the green light to provide a cannabis lab technician major, focusing on the chemical and biological composition of the plant while also learning about the past and present of the fledgling cannabis industry.
In a similar vein, the University of Maryland’s School of Pharmacy began accepting applications in its own master of science program in the medicinal cannabis science and therapeutics degree program last year. The program aims to “provide students with the knowledge and skills needed to support patients and the medical cannabis industry, add to existing research in the field, and develop well-informed medical cannabis policy,” according to a press release. The two-year program blends online education with in-person instruction to help prepare students to support patients, contribute to research, and develop well-informed policy.
Other collegiate courses include ‘Cannabis Science and Medicine,’ an online course from the University of Vermont’s Larner College of Medicine, and ‘Medicinal Cannabis and Chronic Pain,’ a class offered at the University of Washington in Seattle.
Colleges and Universities aren’t only offering courses centered on the science of marijuana; they’re interested in research and education on the business and policy side of the industry, too. For example, the University of Denver’s Daniels College of Business had a class on the business of marijuana. Vanderbilt’s law school offered a course called “Marijuana Law and Policy,” and Ohio State University’s Moritz College of Law held a seminar titled, “Marijuana Law, Policy and Reform.”
It only makes sense to adapt and grow with the hemp and cannabis industries. Leafly’s 2019 cannabis job report noted that the cannabis industry is the most massive job creation machine in the U.S., creating over 64,000 jobs while the sector continues to grow. The educational opportunities are a reflection of this growth.
In Worcester, Massachusetts, Clark University, founded in 1887, was one of the first modern research universities in the U.S. and continues to this day as a private research university. Clark University recently launched a graduate certificate in regulatory affairs for cannabis control, seeking to gain an understanding of public policy issues surrounding the cultivation, distribution, and regulation of both adult-use and medical-use cannabis.
Recently, even cannabis-focused schools are growing and thriving. Cannabis Training University (CTU), Clover Leaf University, and Oaksterdam University serve to provide education, resources, and training opportunities for individuals currently working in the cannabis industry and for those wanting to get into the biz, including investors and entrepreneurs.