Cannabis aficionados flock to ‘higher education’ in USA

Universities in the United States are beginning to offer degree courses on cannabis.

Students can now apply for a Master of Science degree in medical cannabis science and therapeutics at the University of Maryland, which is piloting the new course.

The course will act as a vital path for students with a bachelor’s degree who want to enter the rapidly-emerging cannabis industry in North America.

The new cannabis degree is the first of its kind in the country with studies beginning September 2020. The cut-off date for applicants is April 15 2020.

Natalie D Eddington, PhD, Dean of Maryland’s School of Pharmacy, revealed how the course has been “critically designed” to prepare students to meet the level of demand for educated workers in the cannabis industry.

“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,” she added.

The course is tailored to teach students about a wide array of subjects relevant to the blooming cannabis industry, ranging from knowledge on the medicinal aspects of the plant to future careers as health care professionals, scientists and regulators, or the more business side of the industry such as growers, dispensary owners and policy professionals.

Basic science

The degree includes four courses on the topics of ‘basic science (pharmacology, chemistry, and medical cannabis delivery systems), clinical uses (pathophysiology, assessment, and management of conditions that may be treated by medical cannabis), adverse effects and public health considerations and federal and state laws and policies’.

Education on the topic of cannabis and its potential medicinal benefits will be key to global adoption and recognition. However, it won’t be an easy task as public perception of cannabis is still tainted from the previous century’s attack on the plant as a harmful drug.

The cannabis industry is expected to be worth $66.3 billion globally by 2025, with the majority of the trade taking place in Canada and the USA, although Europe is slowly warming to the idea of cannabis legalisation.

Cannabis is currently legal for recreational use across 11 states and for medicinal use throughout 33 states, demonstrating a nationwide softening of views towards the previously illicit plant.

Lake Superior State University in Michigan has also launched a cannabis business course designed for “future managers, supervisors, and business development leaders within a commercial enterprise”.

The esteemed ivy league Cornell University recently joined the cannabis education ranks by offering a course on ‘Cannabis: Biology, Society and Industry’ to those who had already received a biology degree at university level.

The course notes: “25 out of every 10,000 jobs currently listed are related to the cannabis industry, and from April to May 2018 there was a 50% jump in the number of cannabis related job listings”.

Pot cultivation

Hot on the tail of Canada becoming the second country to legalise weed on a nationwide level, McGill University in Montreal has announced it will be offering a graduate degree in cannabis production next year, as “studying pot cultivation requires a grasp of hardcore science” said Anja Geitmann, the dean of the faculty of agricultural and environmental sciences at McGill University.

The increasing number of universities and upper education courses in cannabis demonstrates the strength of the industry and the demand for higher level skills alongside the fundamental core skills across a variety of topics in relation to cannabis.

Similar to the eSports industry that has recently seen a rise in popularity, with universities also jumping on the gaming bandwagon offering degrees related to online competitive gaming, educational bodies shift with the times to reflect what society will need for a future workforce, and the cannabis industry is evidently a big part of that.

Why the cannabis industry needs more skilled workers

It’s undeniable to state that cannabis has a multitude of different medicinal properties, with it being used to treat epilepsy, multiple sclerosis, glaucoma and depression, but skilled workers are needed throughout the industry to ensure patients are getting the most out of their medicine.

Cannabis that is poorly grown in improper conditions has the potential to lose levels of THC and CBD, thus making it less effective when converted into medicine.

This is why it’s important to have educated people across the entire supply chain, most importantly at the beginning, in enabling the end product to be as high quality as possible alongside ensuring the seed, plant and eventual flower are all of optimum health.

Moreover, cannabis dispensaries are currently all over a number of states in the US, but a vital step forward would be if the dispensary staff were educated with knowledge of the therapeutic effects to a higher level, this would encourage sufferers of an illness to consult a dispensary as opposed to ingesting whichever strain of cannabis is available to them.

Psychoactive effects

The two primary chemical compounds found in cannabis are CBD and THC. CBD doesn’t have psychoactive effects but it still has numerous medicinal benefits, while THC is the compound that gets users ‘high’.

Strains vary in levels of THC and CBD. Sativa strains typically have higher levels of THC and lower levels of CBD while indica strains have higher levels of CBD to give the patient a more relaxed high, concentrating on the sensations in the body over the mind.

With the rise of the recreational use of cannabis, countless new jobs being created, scientific research pouring over the medicinal benefits and millions being invested in the cannabis industry, it’s safe to say that the future will continue to get greener and those making the move to receive an education in the field will only reap benefits further down the line.

The new degrees and the subsequent rise in skilled and educated workers that will come from them shows there is longevity to the industry and although it may be going through a rocky patch, like other industries, it will most likely come out the other side and continue to expand.