An Ivy League education in weed
The pot smoking uni student is nothing new. Dating back 50 years to the late-'60s college students rebelled against conservative drug policies and took up lighting en masse. By the mid-'70s pot use had become widely accepted and has since been a staple across campuses.
Today, in the US, despite it still being banned at college campuses nationwide, around 40% of students used marijuana at least once in the prior 12 months.
This personal interest in pot could help fill a growing gap in the employment market. In response to the rapid growth in North America’s legal cannabis market, the sector is suffering from a severe shortage of qualified staff.
This situation is only going to intensify with estimates pointing to the legal cannabis market being worth anywhere from $76 billion to $166 billion globally by 2025 — a jump from the current US$12 billion market.
Growth will be driven by expanding cannabis legalisation across the global, widening medicinal applications, a rising geriatric population who need treatment for chronic diseases, and growing use of advanced techniques in cannabis cultivation.
Yet, along with strict regulations and high costs regarding production, distribution, sales, and possession of legal cannabis, finding adequately qualified industry professionals is impeding growth.
Sure, there’s no shortage of applicants, but finding qualified applicants has already proven to be a struggle with the number of cannabis jobs in the US doubling in just the last three years. Jobs site Indeed found that cannabis job postings jumped from about 300 posts per million in 2016 to about a thousand posts per million in 2019.
Jamie Warm, the CEO of Henry’s Original, a Californian cannabis cultivator and distributor, is one such employer that’s struggling to find qualifies candidates.
He notes, “we have one of the biggest industries developing without any trained professionals” and goes on to explain that to fill positions he’s had to pull professionals from the packaged goods, liquor and fashion industries, and while their experience does translate to an extent, there remains a “learning curve”.
This is an industry that requires both high-level and broad-based skills, from horticulture, to chemistry, entrepreneurship, pharmacology, policy and regulation, communication, and law.
College level cannabis
To meet this demand, a growing number of universities are now offering college courses and degrees in cannabis.
And these are not no-name community college degrees either.
From this current semester, Ivy League school, Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, offers the undergraduate course “Cannabis: Biology, Society and Industry”. The course focuses on exploring the history, culture, pharmacology, horticulture and legal challenges associated with the plant.
And from next year, Cornell plans on launching a master’s degree that will emphasise oral and written communication skills to deal with media and industry stakeholders.
Associate professor at Cornell’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, Carlyn S. Buckler, who designed the school’s undergraduate cannabis course explained that given that the industry remains in its infancy and is largely made up if start-up stage businesses, it is imperative that employees understand all aspects of the industry.
Beginning later this month, another well-regarded institution, the University of Maryland School of Pharmacy, has offered a two-year master’s degree in medical cannabis science and therapeutics — the first graduate program in the US dedicated to the study of medical cannabis.
The course will provide students with the knowledge and skills needed to support patients and the medical cannabis industry, add to existing research in the field, and develop well-informed medical cannabis policy.
This coming semester will also see the University of the Sciences in Philadelphia offer the “first MBA” for the cannabis industry. Seeking to develop cannabis industry business leaders, the MBA has a focus on the commerce of cannabis, hemp, and dispensary operations.
The university already has a working relationship with Denver-based Franklin Biosciences, a large grower that operates dispensaries, to develop a cannabis education program for pharmacists, physicians, and students who plan on entering the health professions.
In Canada, McGill University is offering the country’s first PhD in cannabis production that will help fill what the university describe as the “huge black hole” in scientific knowledge about the cannabis plant.
For those looking for an easier to access cannabis education, online cannabis certificate programs are available too.
Green Flower is soon to offer a “Cannabis Fundamentals Certification”. The course provides students with an in-depth overview and understanding of cannabis through a ten-course video module plan focusing on: Methods and Products, Dosing, Quality Assurance and Careers in Cannabis.
The company explain that the course gives students “a solid foundation of accurate, fundamental knowledge and fluency about cannabis, necessary for success in today’s cannabis industry”.