Americans have long been fascinated by cannabis, but academic America hasn’t returned the favor. Serious studies into marijuana science and policy have been scarce, mostly because colleges fear running afoul of the federal ban on cannabis.
Finally, things are changing. New opportunities are opening up for those ready to learn about medical and recreational marijuana as a business and a health care option for patients seeking relief that traditional medicine doesn’t deliver.
Right here in the mid-Atlantic, Philadelphia-based University of the Sciences is leading the way with the nation’s first MBA coursework focused on the cannabis industry. And in Maryland, a pharmaceutical school offers a new master’s degree in the science of medical marijuana.
These programs are just the latest in a range of options for those ready to carve out careers in the booming cannabis industry.
Marijuana degrees on tap
Like any industry, the cannabis field needs people with a variety of talents and skills. Entrepreneurs launch ventures. Businesspeople run operations. Growers produce crops. Health care professionals dispense advice. Lawmakers and regulators protect public health and safety.
Throughout the U.S., programs tailored to a range of interests open doors to a major growth industry:
Cannabis concentration: University of the Sciences, Philadelphia, announced its specialized Cannabis Industry Master’s of Business Administration option in July. The first-of-its kind degree offers schooling in cannabis, hemp, and dispensary operations. The cannabis-specific studies were developed in conjunction with USciences’ Substance Use Disorders Institute and industry professionals.
The program formalizes learning around the “many unique aspects” of the medical cannabis and hemp industries, said Andrew Peterson, executive director of the Substance Use Disorders Institute.
“As the industry grows, and the potential for medical cannabis to converge with the pharmaceutical industry, a specialization in pharmaceutical and healthcare business will be an asset to those in the cannabis industry,” said Peterson. “A combination of healthcare, pharmaceutical, and cannabis business knowledge and expertise will be incredibly valuable as graduates move forward in their career.”
Medical cannabis master’s degree: The University of Maryland School of Pharmacy, the nation’s fourth-oldest pharmacy school, announced a first in June – a Master of Science in Medical Cannabis Science and Therapeutics. The nation’s first graduate program devoted to medical cannabis arms students with “the knowledge and skills 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 school posting.
School officials say the two-year program is suitable for people inside and outside of health care — physicians, nurses, pharmacists, scientists, regulators, growers and dispensary owners, and policy and industry professionals. The hybrid program blends online and in-person learning at the Universities at Shady Grove, Rockville, MD. Students “will be well-prepared to support patients and the medical cannabis industry with the knowledge and skills gained from their coursework,” said Program Director Leah Sera, assistant professor of the Department of Pharmacy Practice and Science.
Medicinal plant chemistry bachelor’s degree: As states build regulatory climates devoted to patient and user safety. Northern Michigan University’s bachelor’s degree in medicinal plant chemistry equips students to work in production, analysis, and distribution of marijuana. Students can choose from an entrepreneurial or bioanalytical track.
Regulatory affairs certificate: Today, 33 states and Washington, D.C., have legal medical marijuana, and 11 of these allow recreational use. Even Pennsylvania, which legalized medical marijuana in 2016, stepped into new territory when Gov. Tom Wolf announced his support for legalized recreational marijuana.
All this sudden movement plunges lawmakers into the deep end of the cannabis pool. The people charged with writing laws and regulating operations face a mind-bending array of claims backed by minimal science.
Clark University’s Certificate in Regulatory Affairs for Cannabis Control steps into the breach with studies in the “legal, ethical, and social implications” of cannabis legalization, according to the university. The online certificate program immerses learners in the issues around cultivation, distribution, sales, regulation, and public health implications of cannabis at the community, state, and national levels.
Trade schools: As the industry grows, cannabis-specific colleges immerse students in skills needed for jobs in legal cannabis, including growing and budtending. Online options toward certificates and skill-building are available, although some schools have special enrollment requirements to meet state residency laws. As with any trade school, prospective students are advised to scrutinize school licensing and accreditations, costs, and success rates.