The Growth of Cannabis College Courses and Degrees

As the cannabis industry grows, it’s not surprising that more colleges are adding cannabis courses and complete degree programs to their catalogs. In fact, colleges are starting to realize that not offering cannabis-related courses and programs is a significant missed opportunity.

The two primary reasons more colleges are looking at adding cannabis courses are:

  • A growing demand for qualified employees across the cannabis industry supply chain
  • An increasing need for medical professionals to safely advise patients about medical cannabis

A 2019 study from the University of Pittsburgh School of Pharmacy found that 62% of U.S. pharmacy schools surveyed had already incorporated medical cannabis into their doctorate of pharmacy programs, and another 23% planned to incorporate it into their programs in the next 12 months.

However, university medical programs still lag behind in terms of educating future medical professionals about the use of cannabis. A 2017 study from the Washington University School of Medicine found that only 9% of medical schools included medical cannabis in their programs. In total, 89.5% of medical residents said they were unprepared to prescribe medical cannabis and 35.3% said they were unprepared to answer patients’ questions about it.

Clearly, there is still a need for adequate education related to cannabis, but the good news is that what began at universities several years ago with stand-alone workshops and non-credit seminars has grown to include classes in a variety of disciplines, minor programs, and major programs.

Today, cannabis courses from regionally accredited universities can be found covering topics related to law, business, marketing, medical, science, and more. With the cannabis market growing at a rapid pace and the number of marijuana jobs exploding, it makes sense for colleges to prepare their students to excel in the industry.

10 Colleges Offering Cannabis Courses and Degrees

Let’s take a look at some of the cannabis courses and programs being offered at colleges across the United States to get a better understanding of what students are learning.

1. Northern Michigan University

Northern Michigan University in Marquette, Michigan offers a Medicinal Plant Chemistry major that prepares students to work in the business and science of cannabis. Courses focus on biochemistry, organic chemistry, biology, soils, liquid and gas chromatography, genetics, biostatics, accounting, financial management, and societal perspectives. It’s the only degree program of its kind – mixing biology, chemistry, botany, horticulture, finance, and marketing into a four-year degree program.

2. Colorado State University Pueblo

Colorado State University offers a Cannabis Studies minor. The 22 credit program focuses on the social, legal, historical, political, and health-related impacts of cannabis on society. Students enrolled in the minor learn about local, state, and federal cannabis policies and how to apply the knowledge they gain to internships in legal, health, nonprofit, or social organizations.

3. Harvard

Harvard School of Law offers a Cannabis Law course that helps students study federal, state, and local laws in the cannabis industry and consider how those laws affect criminal law enforcement, land use, banking, and civil rights. In addition, students analyze issues related to cultivation, distribution, and use of medical and recreational marijuana.

4. Vanderbilt University School of Law

Vanderbilt School of Law offers a popular Marijuana Law and Policy course where students learn about laws governing marijuana possession, employee drug testing, and other marijuana-related behaviors. The course addresses a variety of legal questions such as state vs. federal law, contracts, employment, and more.

5. University of Vermont

The University of Vermont Larner College of Medicine offers multiple courses and certificates related to marijuana. For example, the school’s Cannabis Past, Present, and Future course introduces students to basic pharmacology concepts as well as human physiology underlying cannabis use. This science class focuses on teaching cannabis taxonomy as well as the medicinal chemistry of cannabinoids, physiological effects, and therapeutic uses.

6. Hofstra University

Hofstra University in Long Island, New York offers a Business and Law of Marijuana course that introduces students to the legal issues involved in operating a marijuana-related business. The course focuses on state vs. federal law, enforcement of other regulations (e.g., banking) in a marijuana business, and the attorney’s ethical considerations when working with a client operating in a marijuana-related business.

7. University of Denver

The University of Denver offers multiple courses related to cannabis, including Cannabis Journalism and Representing the Marijuana Client (through the University of Denver Sturm College of Law). In the Cannabis Journalism course, students act as investigative journalists to tell the story of the legalization of marijuana. Students in the Representing the Marijuana Client class are introduced to issues and topics essential to representing a public or private marijuana client.

8. University of California Davis

The UC Davis School of Medicine offers a Physiology of Cannabis course that teaches students in the biological sciences program about the biology of cannabis and cannabinoids. Students also learn about the physiological effects of cannabis on the systems of the body as well as its therapeutic effects.

9. Ohio State University

The Ohio State University Moritz College of Law offers a course called Cannabiz: Exploring the “Legalized” Cannabis Industry that teaches students about the risks cannabis entrepreneurs face and how they can navigate the possibility of failure.

10. Florida A&M University of Law

Florida A&M University of Law offers a Cannabis Law and Social Justice course where students learn about the history of marijuana laws as well as the legalities of medical vs. recreational use and legalization vs. decriminalization.

11. Stockton University

Stockton University in New Jersey introduced a Cannabis Studies minor in 2018 that covers the legal, social justice, business, health, financial, and economic issues related to medical marijuana in New Jersey as well as proposed recreational cannabis legalization in the state.

12. University of Connecticut

The University of Connecticut will offer a course through its Department of Plant Science and Landscape Architecture beginning in spring 2019 called Horticulture of Cannabis: From Seed to Harvest. The course will provide comprehensive training in cannabis horticulture.

What’s Next for Cannabis College Education?

The colleges and courses introduced above aren’t the only ones available to students who are interested in learning about and working in the cannabis industry. Other schools like the University of Washington and Florida Gulf Coast University offer their own courses in legal topics, business, science, and more to prepare students for cannabis careers, and even more schools offer credit and non-credit workshops and seminars on cannabis-related topics outside of their formal degree and certification programs.

It’s guaranteed that we’ll see more cannabis courses and degree programs offered at additional schools in the near future. What do you think? Are these courses adequately preparing students for the cannabis industry? What courses would you like to see added to college catalogs? Leave a comment and share your thoughts.

Originally published 8/22/18. Updated 2/22/19.

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