About a year-and-a-half ago Northern Michigan University caught the attention of national media outlets (like us, for example) by offering up a degree in "medicinal plant chemistry" a.k.a. legalized pot. This degree, of course, sounded great until you actually read into it and realized it was more up the alley of serious science students rather than people who stay up until 4 a.m. watching Adult Swim. That said, the offering of this degree appeared to further signify the increasingly mainstream acceptance of marijuana as, both, a legitimate remedy and a legitimate career path.
On that note, the Associated Press published a write-up on Monday that reported on the growing number of colleges tossing cannabis on their curriculum to usher in the future by preparing "graduates for careers cultivating, researching, analyzing and marketing the herb." In fact, Arcview Market Research, who focuses on trends within the cannabis industry, predicts that there will be 467,000 job openings within the industry by 2022.
The AP further reports that colleges in states where recreational weed remains illegal (see: New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut) still offer cannabis studies programs in preparation for their eventual and almost certainly inevitable legality.
The medical plant chemistry major at NMU has drawn 300 students from 48 states, and marks the closest thing any accredited college in the U.S. has to a major in marijuana. The program doesn't involve the growing of pot, but chemistry professor Brandon Canfield says that students will be educated on measuring and extracting compounds from plants like ginseng and St. John's Wort, which will translate to doing that. Canfield adds that graduates will be "qualified to be analysts in a lab setting," but there are also options to add courses for accounting, legal issues, and marketing for those wishing to run their own businesses.
Starting this spring, North Dakota's Minot State University is launching a similar program that will teach skills applicable to that field. Other notable schools are getting in on this as well. Colorado State will have a "cannabis studies minor focusing on social, legal, political and health impacts," And Ohio State, Harvard (freakin' Harvard), the University of Denver, and Vanderbilt all offer classes on marijuana policy and law.
While university research around marijuana has been slow due to outdated federal restrictions, the waves of change are hitting there as well. UCLA’s Cannabis Research Initiative, who represents one of the world's first academic programs dedicated to cannabis study, is currently researching things like cannabis's economic impact in addition to medical treatments.
Horticulture departments are also taking notice, as in the case at both UConn and the State University of New York at Morrisville. New Jersey's Stockton University also began offering up an interdisciplinary cannabis minor starting in the fall of 2018. Additionally, the latter school has also forged an academic relationship with Philadelphia's Thomas Jefferson University to give students internship and research opportunities in the medical marijuana field.
Marijuana is currently legal for medical purposes in 33 states, and is currently legal for recreational usage in 10. Federally it's still illegal, but last year's Farm bill passage paved the way for the go-ahead for hemp's cultivation. Decide whether to alter your entire future accordingly.