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College marijuana programs give companies a source for new employees

Recreational and medical marijuana laws have expanded to all but eleven states in the U.S. Some states are fully legalized for recreational and medical marijuana, some are just legal for medical cannabis, some states allow only CBD oil, and some have decriminalized marijuana. Cannabis is still illegal on the federal level.

The cannabis industry is growing by leaps and bounds, and companies involved with growing, marketing, and developing new products urgently need new employees with expertise in the field. Currently, 425,000 to 520,000 employees are working in cannabis industry companies, and that figure may increase to 670,000 by 2025. Employees are needed to grow potent plants, refine the active ingredients into popular products, develop better products and work in the compliance department to verify that the company is meeting all laws and regulations for the cannabis industry in their states.

But the industry is very new, and training employees is a critical competitive need. There are small and large companies fighting for market share for their medical and recreational products. Several universities and colleges have responded by developing courses and degree programs to meet the demands of the cannabis industry. They offer a range of solutions, from four-year degrees to certificate programs with specific offerings. We looked at nine programs to see how academia provides training for the marijuana industry’s potential employees.

Degrees and minor programs:

Here are nine degree programs right now that those interested in participating in the professional cannabis industry could attend:

Northern Michigan University, Marquette, Michigan


  • Bachelor of Science in medicinal plant chemistry and indoor horticulture. Enrolled: 347.
  • The Northern Michigan program is one of the larger ones we looked at. It is technically oriented with an advanced track with biology and chemistry topics. Graduates are trained in instrumental analysis in a laboratory.
  • Northern Michigan also has a business track to explore entrepreneurship, business, and accounting.

Lake Superior State University, Sault St. Marie, Michigan

  • Lake Superior offers two degree programs: a Bachelor of Science in cannabis chemistry and an Associates’ degree in cannabis science. Enrolled: 99.
  • Lake Superior is focused on training cannabis chemistry graduates in a career-focused program. Students in the BS program spend much of their time learning cannabis extraction and separation techniques in the lab. Lake Superior’s graduates find jobs in the industry or go on to advanced academic programs.

Colorado State University, Pueblo

  • Degree: Bachelor of Science in cannabis biology and chemistry. Enrolled 58 students.
  • Colorado State’s cannabis degree program is two years old and will graduate its first students in 2024. The program is rigorous enough that graduates can find jobs in biology and chemistry labs, regardless of their connection to the cannabis industry.
  • Students learn about marijuana physiology and pharmaceutical implications in their course. They can major in analytical and natural products.
  • Colorado State University hosts the Institute of Cannabis Research conference each year and sponsors the Journal of Cannabis Research.

The State University of New York at Morrisville

  • Degree: minor in cannabis studies. Enrolled 30 students.
  • This minor program allows students to learn about the marijuana industry, combining business, agricultural science, and horticulture. Students can focus on their areas of interest, such as cannabis botany, production, and processing techniques.
  • Students can cultivate marijuana year-round using low THC strains of flowers. Plants are grown on the school’s farm and in a Controlled Environment Agriculture Greenhouse with several hydroponic systems.
  • SUNY Morrisville gives the students opportunities to network with industry leaders at campus events

Stockton University, Galloway, New Jersey

  • Degree: minor in cannabis studies. Enrolled: 100+ students
  • Students who minor in cannabis studies can major in any other field, including business and finance, criminal justice, health science, biology, etc.
  • Stockton University helps place cannabis studies minors in industries that match their interests.
  • The cannabis minor includes courses like Introduction to Medical Marijuana and Cannabis Law. Students also prepare an internship that exposes them to small business operations and opportunities.

Western Illinois University, Macomb, Illinois

  • Degree: minor in cannabis production. Enrolled: 12 students.
  • This program has guest lecturers that are cannabis industry executives. The capstone course is the Anthropological Study of Cannabis.
  • A self-designed internship in the industry is also a networking opportunity.


The following certifications are available to those who wish to attend and obtain them:

The University of Rhode Island, Kingston, Rhode Island

  • Online Certificate in cannabis studies
  • The certificate requires four three-credit courses, including medicinal plants, functional foods research, natural product chemistry, biosynthesis, microbiology and formulation research, and development in the pharmaceutical and nutraceutical industry.
  • Seven-week modules create a core competence in cannabis studies with safe product development and evaluation of the therapeutic potential of cannabis.

University of Nevada, Reno

  • Certificate in cannabis education. Enrolled: 20 students.
  • This certificate program aims to provide employees for the Green Flower Network, a cannabis food network.
  • This program will train students for compliance, cultivation, distribution, and retail cannabis positions.
  • Courses: healthcare and medicine, marijuana law and policy, cannabis agriculture, and horticulture.

Oaksterdam University, Oakland, California

  • Oaksterdam was the first cannabis university in the country. It has 50,000 alumni around the world.
  • The curriculum covers every aspect of the cannabis industry, including cultivation, manufacturing, marijuana business, and public policy.
  • Diversity and inclusion are goals of Oaksterdam University. They have sought laws that allow convicted and incarcerated people to work in the legalized industry.

A wide range of educational programs provide training and technical support for the cannabis industry. Some are degree programs built around science and engineering education and cannabis legal and product development. Many of the certification programs seem to create entry-level employees for the industry.

The cannabis industry is very new, and it is interesting to see the range and depth of educational opportunities to provide well-trained workers who can be productive in that new industry.







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