From seed to sale, the cannabis industry is a robust engine for job creation. In fact, the number of jobs in the legal market is expected to grow to upward of 1.5 million, reports Leafly.
As the industry continues to grow, with it comes the demand for employees with specific backgrounds, education, and expertise. In this blog, we’ll delve into the remarkable transformation of cannabis education and explore the journey from specialized programs to full-fledged degree offerings.
From specialized programs to mainstream academia
Decades of prohibition had a chilling effect on the formal incorporation of cannabis education into academia. Some institutions took the position that offering cannabis courses or conducting research would jeopardize any federal funding received, thanks to cannabis’s status in D.C. as a harmful and addictive Schedule I substance. Obstacles to obtaining cannabis samples for research purposes also caused roadblocks for some departments.
In light of the lack of formal programs in higher education, many respected and esteemed “cannabis colleges” sprung up in its place. These courses train cultivators, businesspeople, and other industry professionals in the ins and outs of growing the plant, economics, history, medical applications, and much more.
Much has changed in recent years, though. More universities than ever are recognizing the immense potential of the cannabis industry and beginning to develop programs to prepare students for the burgeoning field. Since Northern Michigan University established the first four-year degree in medicinal plant chemistry in 2017, an array of majors and minors have sprouted across the U.S., transforming what was once an unconventional pursuit into a legitimate academic discipline. Many of these programs operate in our own backyard, with many colleges in New York and New Jersey offering courses in cannabis business, cultivation, cooking, and more.
The importance of cannabis education
As your options for cannabis coursework increase, you may find yourself weighing the possibility of going back to school. For some, that’s a great option: obtaining a degree or education in cannabis can help equip you with essential knowledge and expertise to forge a rewarding career in the industry. Some of the reasons why you may want to pursue a formal cannabis education include:
- Preparing for the growing cannabis workforce: A comprehensive understanding of the complexities of cannabis cultivation, processing, and distribution is crucial for making a meaningful contribution to your workplace. Securing a relevant degree or certification can heighten your chances of securing and retaining a job in this competitive market. While there aren’t many candidates currently who have formal education in cannabis, this degree may become more valuable as time goes on.
- Specialized market expertise: An education in cannabis can equip you with tailored insights into a highly unique market. This technical knowledge is highly valuable in an industry that’s constantly evolving.
- Accelerated career growth: Beyond securing a job, a cannabis degree can be a catalyst for rapid career growth. It provides you with a competitive edge as you make your way up the ladder. It offers the opportunity to cultivate a more extensive professional network. A formal program also brings opportunities to students, like internships and networking, that may be harder to obtain without the structure of a cannabis education program.
- Entrepreneurial ventures: A cannabis degree will arm you with the knowledge and skills to potentially embark on your own entrepreneurial endeavors within the cannabis space. Many cannabis education programs will provide a foundation for confidently launching and managing your own business.
Camilla Collins, a former student of Stockton University’s Cannabis Studies program and current Assistant General Manager at Zen Leaf in central New Jersey, told CWCBExpo that while a cannabis-specific degree or education is not necessarily essential to building your career, it can be a great way to gain more connections with those in the industry.
“I don’t think I would’ve come across Zen Leaf when I did if it wasn’t for my professor making us aware of who to apply to around us,” she stated.
She also believes that cannabis education should continue to grow. “This will help end the stigma by normalizing it can be studied to be a career,” Collins said.
5 cannabis education program examples
The number of learning options available to those interested is remarkable, and more are developing all the time. Prospective cannabis students can explore everything from undergraduate programs to specialized master’s degrees or targeted certificate courses. For those eager to immerse themselves in the New York area, there are quite a number of options. Five examples of these Northeast offerings are below.
1. LIM College
The Business of Cannabis offered by LIM College is a four-year bachelor’s with required internships. The curriculum covers marketing, retail, distribution, and more and can be completed entirely online or at LIM’s NYC campus. They also have an online 1-year Master’s program in the Business of Cannabis that is entirely online and taught by local industry professionals. Some of the professors at LIM College include Cannabis NYC Founding Director and 2023 CWCBExpo keynote speaker Dasheeda Dawson and Park Jordan founder and CWCBExpo 2023 speaker Kristin Jordan.
2. Stockton University
Stockton University, based in south Jersey, was among the first colleges on the east coast to offer a minor in Cannabis Studies. All students of this program take required courses in Medical Cannabis, Cannabis Law, and Internship Preparation before moving on to an internship and interest-specific elective. The school also offers a six-week online certificate program for those interested in furthering their credentials.
3. Rowan University
Rowan University launched one of the country’s first MBA programs in Cannabis Commercialization in 2022. The MBA program stands as the first and only AACSB-accredited program in the country offering business-focused cannabis coursework. They also offer two cannabis certificate programs in Cannabis Commercialization and Cannabis Entrepreneurship.
4. St. Joseph’s University
St. Joseph’s University offers certificate programs in Cannabis Healthcare and Medicine, Compliance and Risk Management, The Business of Cannabis, and Cannabis Agriculture and Horticulture. Their programs are fully online and run on a 6-month timeline.
5. University of Connecticut
UConn announced the nation’s first university course on cannabis horticulture in 2019. The “Horticulture of Cannabis From Seed to Harvest” program offers three different horticulture courses and is open to enrolled UConn students as well as those independent from the University.
Cannabis education partnerships
Education organizations, such as Green Flower, partner with top universities nationwide to provide online cannabis education from experts in the field. These programs offer education in cannabis medicine and healthcare, enterprise, agriculture, and risk management. Some of the universities that currently offer cannabis education programs through a partnership with Green Flower include:
- University of San Diego
- Florida Atlantic University
- Northern Michigan University
- Syracuse University
- University of New Haven
Cultivating a greener future
At CWCBExpo, we understand that working in an industry like cannabis comes with an endless pursuit of knowledge. That’s why we created University Row at our expo, where colleges with cannabis curriculums can exhibit their offerings to our attendees. Here, attendees of our annual B2B expo can connect with the most progressive learning opportunities in the industry.
Stay tuned year-round for monthly news updates on the cannabis industry in the northeast and nationwide, and connect with leaders and experts at our next B2B trade show on June 5 – 6, 2024 in New York City.