Higher education: The top universities with cannabis programs

Published on August 27, 2019 · Last updated September 14, 2021
Smiling young African female university student sitting on a campus bench working on a laptop while preparing for an exam

Updated 9/14/2021

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. Saying you’re going to college to major in weed isn’t a joke anymore; it’s actually a good idea.

The US cannabis industry now supports 321,000 full-time jobs


Cannabis career possibilities: wellness consultant, cannabis sales and marketing, budtending, dispensary management, cultivation

Four-year degree programs

Cannabis career possibilities: grower, extraction technician, research scientist, lab analyst, or forensic chemist.

Lake Superior State University, Cannabis Chemistry (Marie, MI)

This program at LSSU is touted as one of the first in the country: “focusing on the quantitative analysis of cannabis-related compounds and contaminants including THC, CBD, [and] terpenes.”

Northern Michigan University, Degree in Medicinal Plant Chemistry (Marquette, MI)

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.

How I consumed cannabis in college without losing focus

Minot State University, Degree in Medicinal Plant Chemistry (Minot, ND)

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.

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Colorado State University – Pueblo, Cannabis Biology & Chemistry (Pueblo, CO)

Along with a cannabis minor, CSU Pueblo offers a BS in Cannabis Biology and Chemistry intended to “provide students an understanding of basic chemical and biological principles that can be applied to the emerging field of cannabis science.”

Undergraduate minors

Cannabis career possibilities: entrepreneur, cannabis marketing, development, or operations, cannabis law, or cannabis justice

Medgar Evers College, City University of New York cannabis degree program (Brooklyn, NY)

In 2021, Medgar Evers College announced the beginning of a new 13-course cannabis minor program in the CUNY.

“… I’m particularly pleased to see that the institution that I’ve been selected to lead is on the cutting edge of providing educational opportunities to learn about the many beneficial uses of plants such as cannabis and to provide the training necessary for our students to be able to compete for burgeoning opportunities in this new industry. Education is a key step in raising awareness of the non-recreational benefits of plants such as cannabis.  Oftentimes, communities of color are the last to benefit from emerging economic opportunities.  The science faculty and the business faculty collaborated in developing the minor in cannabis education; thus, exposing the students to the science, health, technical and business aspects of this new industry,”

Dr. Patricia Ramsey, president of Medgar Evers College

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.

College students taking a COVID gap semester are turning to cannabis jobs

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.

University of Rhode Island, Cannabis Studies Certificate (Online)

The certificate program at URI’s College of Pharmacy consists of four courses including foundational cannabis knowledge, cannabis chemistry, cannabis product development, and cannabis therapeutics.

Western Illinois University (Macomb, IL)

Western Illinois University has not just one, but two cannabis minors. Students can pursue a minor in Cannabis and Culture or Cannabis Production, which seems helpful for operational roles.

Graduate study

Cannabis career possibilities: 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).”

More on cannabis degrees

Federally funded state universities now offer 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.

How to turn a degree into a cannabis career

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 are some of the colleges and universities with cannabis on the curriculum, as well as job possibilities for graduates of each program.

Is there a cannabis program at your school? Tweet us with the details, and we’ll add them to our list!

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Stacy Pershall
Stacy Pershall
Stacy Pershall is the author of "Loud in the House of Myself: Memoir of a Strange Girl." Based in New York, she is a public speaker and mental health advocate for college-age students.
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