Grace DeNoya is used to smiling when people find out she is a cannabis expert. Grace DeNoya says “My friends are joking about my degree as an expert on marijuana,” I am one of the first students of a new four-year program on the chemistry of medicinal plants at the University of Northern Michigan. “I say:” No, this is a serious scientific degree, degree of chemistry first. This is hard work. Organic chemistry is a bear.
As a green gold rush in legal marijuana and its non-drug cousin hemp spreads across North America, a growing number of colleges are adding cannabis to the curriculum to prepare graduates for careers cultivating, researching, analyzing and marketing the herb.
Research shows there are high times ahead for all kinds of careers in cannabis , ranging from greenhouse and dispensary operators to edible product developers, marketing specialists, quality assurance lab directors and pharmaceutical researchers. Arcview Market Research, which focuses on cannabis industry trends, projects the industry will support 467,000 jobs by 2022.
And even in states where recreational marijuana remains illegal, including New York, New Jersey and Connecticut, some colleges have launched cannabis studies programs in anticipation of legalization or to prepare students for jobs in other states.
“We’re providing a fast track to get into the industry,” said Brandon Canfield, a chemistry professor at Northern Michigan University in Marquette. Two years ago, he proposed a new major in medicinal plant chemistry after attending a conference where cannabis industry representatives spoke of an urgent need for analytical chemists for product quality assessment and assurance.