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State Colleges Now Teaching Cannabis, and Harvard Is Playing Catch-Up

November 2, 2017

With cannabis legalization spreading rapidly both within the US and abroad, job-seekers have been increasingly interested in academic programs geared toward landing a job in the emerging cannabis industry.

It’s sensible enough. More than half of all US states in have legalized medicinal cannabis, and eight and Washington, DC, have legalized adult use. As we reported earlier this year, those legal cannabis markets support nearly 150,000 full-time jobs as of 2017. The green rush is real.

But getting into the industry doesn’t mean you have to shell out big bucks at an Ivy League school like Harvard, which recently announced a class for master’s-degree students. There are plenty of other choices at schools across the country that offer programs designed to help prepare students for jobs in legal cannabis.

In June 2016, Colorado State University in Pueblo announced it would establishing an Institute of Cannabis Research in partnership with the state of Colorado and Pueblo County. The program was the nation’s first multi-disciplinary cannabis research center at a “regional, comprehensive institution,” the school said.

What does such a program look like? According to CSU, its primary aim is to generate knowledge that contributes to science, medicine, and society through the investigation of the benefits and risks associated with cannabis consumption. In 2017-18, the programs goals include:

  • Provide technical reports on the state and Pueblo County-funded research projects by December 2017.
  • Host the first, national, multi-disciplinary research conference on cannabis, April 28-30, 2017.
  • Publish the first peer-reviewed, multi-disciplinary Journal of Cannabis Research.
  • Develop an infrastructure for institute management, oversight, coordination, and programming.
  • Identify private and government partnerships that will expand on current research, offer new research possibilities, and further develop ICR programming.
  • Enhance laboratories, technology, and equipment to ensure continuation of research and logistical support.
  • Ensure the future success of the institute through diverse and sustainable funding sources.

The CSU Pueblo program has an in-state price tag of around $24,185, per the website College Data, and around $38,767 for out-of-state students.

Northern Michigan University also recently established a cannabis degree for students. The program is medicinal plant chemistry, which began this fall.

The program has around a dozen students and, according to the university, is designed to give students a more traditional approach to cannabis education than other niche programs. The school says students will benefit from a traditional, four-year secondary-education experience plus specialized classwork designed to fit the cannabis sector.

The required coursework:

Provides a foundation in chemistry and plant biology, with a capstone research experience involving experimental horticulture and instrumental analysis of natural products, while focus tracks allow students to explore their interests in other relevant areas like business and accounting (Entrepreneurial Track) or more advanced topics in chemistry and biology (Bio-analytical Track).

Cost of attendance is also lower at NMU than most other schools, with the in-state cost of attendance at $22,156 and the out-of-state cost $27,652.

If either of those two aren’t your style, Harvard Business School is offering a master class this year on cannabis business. The class, taught by California-based cannabis entrepreneur Adrian Sedlin, will include everything from measuring a plant’s THC level to how to build a scalable business in an industry at a time of regulatory uncertainty.

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Gage Peake

Gage Peake is a former staff writer for Leafly, where he specialized in data journalism, sports, and breaking news coverage. He's a graduate of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln's College of Journalism and Mass Communications.

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