Mom And Dad, I'm Going To Cannabis School
By Nick Kovaceich – May 20, 2019
A few years ago, when Michigan was considering legalizing cannabis, officials at Northern Michigan University asked faculty to come up with “futuristic leading-edge academic majors.” The result: Students from around the country can now enroll in a cannabis-centric medicinal chemistry program, which has grown to 230 students in just two years. The program provides a background in botany and analytical chemistry, then students choose an entrepreneurial or bioanalytical track. Graduates are expected, in part, to staff testing labs as part of the state’s newly legal cannabis market.
Legal cannabis added over 64,000 jobs last year — more than any other industry in the United States. In fact, by 2020, cannabis will have a job creation rate of 110%, according to Leafly.com. Who’s filling all these jobs? More and more, it’s graduates of programs like the one at NMU that are cropping up at colleges across the country.
New Jersey’s Stockton University, for example, launched a minor in cannabis studies this year. The program includes five courses, with a mandatory internship and classes on medicinal cannabis and cannabis law. Last fall, the University of California, Davis debuted a graduate- level course, “Cannabis sativa: The Plant and its Impact on People.” The plant sciences class examines the health effects, risks and medical benefits of cannabis.
Montreal’s McGill University is developing a degree in cannabis, which it will unveil next year. The Canadian program will prepare graduates to work at the master grower or management level of the industry. Students will learn about cannabis genetics and the legalities of the industry, along with how to optimize growing conditions for the plant. Canada, in general, has committed to cannabis education. Canadian schools have at least 11 post-secondary cannabis programs, more than six colleges offering cannabis cultivation degrees and several universities with courses in cannabis business and law.
But it’s not just colleges jumping into the field. The American Cannabis Nurses Association now offers continuing education credits to nurses through its online cannabis curriculum. Topics in the 12-part series, complete with quizzes and lectures, include the endocannabinoid system, dosing, medical risks and legal implications.
How The Agility Of The Back Office Is Driving Companies Forward
The interest isn’t surprising. More than half of the cannabis workforce is comprised of professional and technical workers, such as accountants, lab workers, marketers and tax experts, according to Leafly. That’s led to a median annual salary of $58,511, almost 11% higher than the overall U.S. median. The industry monitoring website calls cannabis “America’s hidden job boom” in its Cannabis Jobs Report.
Two of the most in-demand jobs are dispensary manager and bud tender, roles that require extensive knowledge of the industry. But everyday business roles are hard to fill, as well. Cannabis companies have plenty of job applicants, but not enough with the right qualifications and experience. That’s because cannabis is still a Schedule 1 drug at the federal level, equated with heroin. That means many traditional jobs, from accounting to IT and supply chain, aren’t as straightforward in the cannabis industry. There’s also a litany of jobs that require even more specialized training, including attorneys, botanists, marketing professionals and electricians, to handle the unusual demands of the industry. Then, there are the jobs uniqueto cannabis, from grow masters and bud trimmers to master extractors.
All these jobs now have college-level courses designed to help students learn the industry and gain experience through internships, as well as acquire the necessary licenses and permits to work in it. It’s a savvy call, since, according to Marijuana Business Daily, the economic impact of cannabis could be $77 billion by 2022. Most of the in-demand jobs are in states where cannabis is legal, with a full quarter of the entire workforce in California. Unsurprisingly, canna-legal states are where most of the new programs are located too.
Now that most states have some form of legal cannabis use — and 10 states plus Washington, D.C., have lifted prohibitions against adult-use cannabis — the industry is adding jobs faster than the low-tech and high-tech sectors. Expect more programs to launch to cope with all of those help wanted signs.