Higher education: The top universities offering cannabis degrees
In the fall of 2018, University of Connecticut Professor Gerry Berkowitz taught a new, three-credit college course called “Horticulture of Cannabis: From Seed to Harvest,” and packed a 400-person lecture hall. The course was so popular that Berkowitz developed an online version, and in July 2019, 40 more students nationwide began watching him grow a hemp crop from seed.
In addition to Berkowitz’s instruction, his students watch video presentations from industry experts on various aspects of cannabis business and law. At the end of the semester, they will all be three credits closer to their bachelor’s degrees, and hopefully to a lucrative job in the cannabis industry.
Berkowitz recommends his students come prepared with a basic science background, but cannabis is finding its way into humanities and social science departments as well. The industry created 64,000 American jobs in 2019 and is poised for at least 20% more growth in 2019, making it one of the few majors students can translate into jobs right out of college. Saying you’re going to college to major in weed isn’t a joke anymore; it’s actually a good idea.
What cannabis degrees are being offered?
Federally funded state universities are now offering courses in cannabis across majors as diverse as agriculture, chemistry, economics, and journalism, which is a significant step in legitimizing the plant. No longer is cannabis represented on campus by stoner kids in Grateful Dead T-shirts in danger of failing freshman English. Now science majors are learning to make extracts and tinctures.
Currently, there are two schools where you can earn a four-year degree in cannabis science: Northern Michigan University in Marquette, MI, and Minot State University in Minot, North Dakota, which both offer bachelor’s degrees in Medicinal Plant Chemistry.
“The internet has called this a cannabis degree; we call it a chemistry degree,” says Derek Hall, Chief Marketing Officer for Northern Michigan University. “You have growers on one side and users on the other side, and in between, you have these chemists who can answer the question of what compounds exist and at what levels, and those are the chemists we’re training in our program.”
The major has been a resounding success so far. “We started in 2017 with 20 students, this fall we’ll have about 400,” says Hall.
One of those students is Josie Mollohan, who says of the program: “Botany, herbalism and chemistry have always been huge passions of mine. I came to NMU to focus on Biology in the Botany concentration and was interested in changing my area of study to biochemistry. Once this program was announced, I was ecstatic! Medicinal plant chemistry is the perfect blend of all my interests. I know what I’m studying here will change the future of medicine for so many people.”
For those who want to go all the way to grad school majoring in cannabis, the University of Maryland School of Pharmacy offers a low-residency master’s degree in Medical Cannabis Science and Therapeutics. Although the two-year program costs roughly $25,000 to complete and doesn’t offer scholarships, it also doesn’t require an undergraduate science degree, making it accessible to older students looking for a midlife career change—provided they can afford tuition.
Cannabis is also finding its way into the halls of institutions as venerable as Vanderbilt Law School, where students can now take a course on Marijuana Law and Policy, in which they examine the intricacies of legalization and regulation. And as the language with which we talk about the industry evolves, students at both the University of Denver and the University of Connecticut can take cannabis journalism classes.
Here you’ll find a list of colleges and universities with cannabis on the curriculum, as well as job possibilities for graduates of each program. Four offer minors, which allow students to combine their cannabis studies with degrees in business, health, or humanities.
Four-year degree programs
If you want to be a grower, extraction technician, research scientist, lab analyst, or forensic chemist.
Northern Michigan University, Degree in Medicinal Plant Chemistry (Marquette, Michigan)
Students in the Medicinal Plant Chemistry program learn to grow cannabis and formulate herbal medicine. As they work toward their chemistry degree, students can focus on one of two tracks—the “Entrepreneurial track” supplements their study with business and accounting classes, and the “Bio-analytical track” offers advanced topics in chemistry and biology.
Minot State University, Degree in Medicinal Plant Chemistry (Minot, North Dakota)
In addition to coursework in chemistry, physics, calculus, and biology, students of Minot State’s medicinal plant chemistry program perform 600 hours in the lab in pursuit of their degrees. Study focuses on the extraction of compounds from plant material. In addition to cannabis, students work with hops, leaving them prepared for jobs in both the cannabis and brewing industries.
If you want to open a dispensary, produce and market cannabis products, go to law school, or fight for social justice.
Stockton University, Minor in Cannabis Studies (Galloway, New Jersey)
The interdisciplinary minor in Cannabis Studies at Stockton University begins with three classes: Introduction to Medical Marijuana, Cannabis Law, and Internship Preparation. After completing these courses, students intern in a variety of fields, such as cultivation, retail, research, and communications. Elective courses include holistic health, economic botany, and social justice issues.
SUNY Morrisville, Minor in Cannabis Studies (Morrisville, New York)
SUNY Morrisville’s new 15-hour Cannabis Industry minor, open to all students, combines portions of the college’s agricultural science, horticulture, and business programs. Students grow hemp crops indoors and outdoors, while focusing on specific areas of interest such as botany, production and processing, evaluations, or marketing.
Colorado State University Pueblo, Minor in Cannabis Studies (Pueblo, Colorado)
The College of Humanities and Social Sciences at Colorado State University Pueblo offers a 22-credit Cannabis Studies minor that is “Focused on cannabis and its social, legal, historical, political, and health-related impact on society.” Course offerings include Public Policy, Abnormal Psychology, Criminal Law, and Chemistry.
This minor helps prepare students for jobs in social work, public health, and the law, and is focused on the impact cannabis has had on the Chicano/Chicana community.
If you want to be a dispensary pharmacist, medical cannabis researcher, or drug-policy maker.
University of Maryland School of Pharmacy, Master of Science in Medical Cannabis Science and Therapeutics (Baltimore, Maryland)
The University of Maryland School of Pharmacy’s Medical Cannabis Science and Therapeutics program is the first master of science program in the country dedicated to the study of medical cannabis. This two-year, low-residency master’s degree program combines in-person and online learning. No background in science is necessary; the program’s stated goal is to prepare students for “clinical, scientific, and policy role(s).”