A master's in marijuana: Schools designing programs to meet industry demand for educated workers

The programs deal with everything from therapeutic effects to plant production.

ByChristine Szabo
July 1, 2019, 3:58 PM

Time was when marijuana was something college students smoked furtively in dorm rooms or maybe openly at outdoor concerts on campus.

Now they can get a master's degree in marijuana.

As more states move to legalize marijuana, both medically and recreationally, a number of schools are creating graduate and undergraduate programs aimed at studying the field to supply a more educated U.S. marijuana workforce.

PHOTO: Marijuana plants being grown legally grown at a farm in Oregon.
Marijuana plants being grown legally grown at a farm in Oregon.
Anna Spysz/Getty Images, FILE

The University of Maryland School of Pharmacy announced in a press release a new Master of Science in Medical Cannabis Science and Therapeutics this fall. The aim of the degree is to teach students how to "support patients and the medical cannabis industry, add to existing research in the field, and develop well-informed medical cannabis policy."

Specifically, the two-year program will look at "basic science, clinical use, adverse effects and public health, and federal and state laws and policies surrounding medical cannabis."

“Medical cannabis has been legalized in 33 states, including Maryland, as well as in Washington, D.C., Guam, and Puerto Rico,” said Natalie Eddington, dean of the University of Maryland School of Pharmacy said in a release. “This number is only expected to increase in the future, fueling a demand for an educated workforce that is well-trained in both the science and therapeutic effects associated with this medicinal plant.”

Marijuana Laws
Marijuana Laws
ABC News Photo Illustration

According to the 2019 Marijuana Business Factbook, the number of full-time workers in the U.S. marijuana industry was between 130,000 and 160,000 in 2018 and it estimates those numbers will increase to 175,000 to 215,000 in 2019.

“Our MS in Medical Cannabis Science and Therapeutics has been critically designed to prepare students to meet this demand,” said Eddington. “Innovations in instructional design throughout the curriculum will provide students with the knowledge and skills needed to make a positive impact on communities across the United States."

Other universities offer undergraduate courses like the University of Connecticut’s horticulture of cannabis and the State University of New York at Morrisville is offering a minor in cannabis studies in its horticulture department in the fall.

Northern Michigan University in Marquette offers a four-year degree in medicinal plant chemistry that, according to the program’s description, will “prepare students for success in the emerging industries relating to medicinal plant production, analysis, and distribution.”

The 2019 Marijuana Business Factbook projects that the retail sales of medical and recreational cannabis in the United States could rise to approximately $30 billion by 2023. The expanding industry provides opportunities for young professionals, and the knowledge and education these programs offer will help them contribute to the growing field.

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