U.S. Academics Are Diving into the Cannabis Industry

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The American International College (AIC, Springfield, Massachusetts) recently announced that they will begin offering a master’s degree in cannabis science for the upcoming fall 2020 semester (1).

This will be the first master’s degree offered in the Northeast region of the U.S. The program follows in the footsteps of the AIC’s undergraduate and certificate-level programs that were introduced in November 2019 (2). AIC requires students partaking in their cannabis curriculums to be at least 21 years old due to the fact that some of their courses will tour cannabis facilities who will not accept underage participants into their establishments (2).

The new master’s degree is a 30-credit program for individuals that want to dive into the cannabis industry. It targets the science, business, and legal subjects to provide students a rounded education before they enter the field. The courses vary from business management, horticulture, chemistry, marketing and operations, cultivation, and many other topics. The program will also go over federal and state laws and policies.

Another college near AIC, Holyoke Community College (HCC, Holyoke, Massachusetts), also joined the cannabis education movement by implementing a Cannabis Education Center in October 2019. HCC offers four certificate programs targeting specific career areas in the cannabis industry including cannabis retail and patient advocate, cannabis extraction technician assistant, cannabis culinary assistant, and cannabis cultivation assistant (3). Each of HCC’s certificate programs require 96 hours of instruction, half of those hours are accrued on campus and the remainder are filled through internships so that students are able to gain in-field experience.

Cannabis educational courses and curriculum are popping up all over the country as well. For example, Colorado State University’s (CSU, Pueblo, Colorado) Pueblo campus, will be launching a Bachelor of Science degree program called “Cannabis Biology, and Chemistry.” This program will focus on the science of working in the field, natural products, and analytical chemistry.


“It’s a rigorous degree geared toward the increasing demand coming about because of the cannabis industry,” said David Lehmpuhl, the College of Science and Mathematics Dean. “Hemp and marijuana has really come to the forefront in a lot of economic sectors in the country. We’re not pro-cannabis or anti-cannabis. What we’re about will be the science, and training students to look at that science” (4).

Students will also have the opportunity to work in a laboratory where they will be able to grow industrial hemp and work with cannabidiol (CBD). CSU-Pueblo offers two tracks for undergraduates to choose from. They can focus more on biology with natural products or analytics involving chemistry (5).

Another example is Western Illinois University (Macomb, Illinois) who will begin offering a minor in the art of growing cannabis in the fall 2020 semester. The minor will require 18 to 19 credit hours, which does not include additional coursework provided by Western Illinois’ department of biological sciences. The university is still working on partnerships with corporations involved in both the medical and recreational marijuana sectors; Illinois just legalized recreational use in January. Andy Baker, the School of Agriculture Director, said he is anticipating class sizes of 20 to 30 students (4). He also mentioned that a new bureau for cannabis regulation was created in the Illinois Department of Agriculture, which insinuates new opportunities for employment in the state.

In 2019, the Massachusetts Cannabis Control Commission reported sales of around $420 million for their state’s legal marijuana capital (1). The cannabis industry is a growing platform to about a quarter-million jobs.  As both medical marijuana and recreational use are becoming legalized across the country, the states where cannabis is legal, are reporting high sales and job creations. With the market booming, the education system is jumping onboard by creating programs that will help students enter the cannabis industry’s workforce and help expand on further research on the plants.