As of 2019, the American cannabis job market created 211,000 full-time jobs, according to Leafly and Whitney Economics. While the industry has recently seen thousands of layoffs due to the current bear market, optimism remains for the future. Such optimism includes the promise of federal cannabis reform. However, in the meantime, the prospects of key bills like the SAFE Banking and MORE Acts could open doors for the industry while providing it with key protection in areas it currently lacks.
If passed, these bills would not only improve the regulatory climate for cannabis businesses. Jobseekers would likely find themselves benefitting from the policy change as well. Careers would likely emerge in an array of fields, including within banking and federal institutions. Meanwhile, the demand for work in the cannabis space, from regulatory oversight to security, would surely rise as well.
With cannabis becoming a full-fledged job market, colleges and universities are warming to minors and majors in marijuana. They include Stockton University in New Jersey.
Rob Mejia is an adjunct professor with the nascent Stockton University cannabis program, which uses this writer’s book, Cannabis Jobs, in its curriculum. Mejia is also the operator of a cannabis education company, Our Community Harvest. He told Green Flower that students see opportunities in cannabis. He said, “They look at the fastest-growing, game-changing industry we’ve seen in decades and they say, ‘I want in!’”
Mejia said the purpose of the program is to open student’s minds to careers that extend beyond the traditional few. He explained that his role is to show students the variety of cannabis roles they might not have even been previously aware of.
With cannabis becoming a booming global market, Stockton and a growing number of universities and colleges are following in the footsteps of OG cannabis institutions, like Oaksterdam University. The Oakland school began in 2007 by long-time medical activist Richard Lee, becoming the first cannabis institution to open in America.
Now, mainstream institutions of higher learning are either in the space already or plan to soon enough.
The Rise of Cannabis in the Classroom
The past few years saw a gradual yet growing offering of cannabis courses. By 2017, notable universities in several states were offering cannabis classes in school and online. Early arrivals to the trend include the University of California, Davis as well as Ohio State University and the University of Washington, which teach classes ranging from plant physiology to policy and reform.
Additional universities have since hopped onto the bandwagon. They included The University of Vermont and its cannabis program dedicated to science and medicine. Northern Michigan University offered its students a four-year plant chemistry undergrad program centered on the industry at-large, which then led to tracks in either bioanalytics or an entrepreneurial path focused on biology.
Community colleges also are getting in on the action. In Massachusetts, a marketplace with adult-use laws, Holyoke Community College (HCC) opened its Cannabis Education Center in October 2019. The center, in collaboration with Springfield Technical Community College (STCC), aims to educate a workforce in need of plant education. School leaders say the center places an emphasis on occupational and vocational training as new job opportunities are expected to reach the community.
2020 has seen its fair share of news in the space as well. Colorado State University in Pueblo announced that it plans to offer cannabis as a course option for students beginning in the fall of 2020. The new bachelor of science program covers the biology and chemistry of the plant. In a statement announcing the news, the university said the decision was made to provide a “proactive response” to the American perception of cannabis.
Other states to recently legalize adult-use legislation also saw activity. Western Illinois University in Macomb announced plans to offer a minor in growing both marijuana and hemp. The school expects 20 to 30 students to enroll during the inaugural session in the fall of 2020.
What a Course May Look Like
As with any college course, the structure will vary based on the subject matter, the professor, class size and a myriad of other factors.
In 2020, Colorado State University-Pueblo program leaders gave Quartz a look into what students can expect from its program. Whichever track the students chose, they would be required to earn 120 credit hours to complete their degree. Those hours included 46 hours in core courses, 11 in additional required classes, as well as various hours in advisor-approved electives, support courses, general education, and other electives.
In all, the program resembles that of any other major.
At Stockton University in New Jersey, Rob Mejia structures his program to inform students of the vast industry and how to obtain a profession in the space. To do so, his class focuses on several books for assigned reading. Mejia brings in authors of those books, as well as other influential figures in the space.
“I try to introduce students to cannabis jobs they may not have thought of—things from starting a cannabis limo and hospitality service to securing brand names that may be valuable in the future,” the adjunct professor explained.
Part of educating the class is teaching them about the history and spirit of the cannabis community. This includes a first-day discussion centered on advocacy and getting involved in the movement. “My goal in the classroom is to build a cannabis community,” said Mejia. “We can all help each other flourish in the cannabis industry.”
When College Isn’t an Option
For some, attending college to learn about cannabis isn’t going to happen. Whatever the reason may be, consider your options and assess the best next steps. Is an online certificate program a better fitting option? If yes, then plan ahead and look at your schedules to see how many hours you can reasonably dedicate to the course.
If a certificate program doesn’t quite fit, consider your current job skills. Then, do the same with your cannabis know-how. At the same time, start attending cannabis events. Industry meetups are becoming a popular presence in major cannabis cities. And don’t forget Mejia’s point about becoming an advocate.
While the road to a cannabis career may soon include a college education, it’s skill, determination, and putting yourself out there can get the ball rolling.
Looking for online cannabis courses? Green Flower offers certificate programs designed to help you enter the hottest cannabis job markets.
Wondering where to start? Check our Cannabis Fundamentals Program Page today.