- Cornell University and the University of Maryland are introducing classes that focus on the cultivation and use of marijuana, along with the legal and other issues surrounding cannabis.
- The schools are reacting to growing employer demand for college graduates with expertise in marijuana, with job growth in the sector expected to expand as more states legalize the drug.
- One investor gave $9 million to Harvard and MIT researchers to explore the science of cannabinoids.
Marijuana, once a scourge of resident advisers across college campuses, is now finding a home in academia -- even inside the Ivy League.
Cornell University is among the colleges around the U.S. adding courses related to marijuana cultivation and usage, which is thriving thanks to legalization for recreational use in 11 states and is permitted in 33 states for medical purposes. That's prompting a, ranging from retail salespeople to accountants.
Sales of legal recreational and medical marijuana may reach $10 billion this year, surpassing sales of e-cigarettes and the Fortnite video game, according to Marijuana Business Daily, a trade publication. The University of Maryland said last month that its school of pharmacy is opening a new masters degree program in medical cannabis science and therapeutics, a two-year degree designed to meet growing employer demand for trained experts in medical applications of the plant.
Clark University is starting an online certificate program to teach the intricacies of marijuana regulations and health and public safety concerns. And this fall, Cornell will add a new class focusing on the history, horticulture and legal issues surrounding marijuana.
"I advise a lot of students in a lot of majors and they're all like, this is going to be cool," Antonio DiTommaso, program director for agricultural sciences at Cornell, told The Wall Street Journal, which first reported on the new class. "I think some of it is just a novelty, but it's really going to be based on the cropping, the agronomics, the medicinal aspect, the chemistry, consumer attitudes and policy."
More states around the country are likely to legalize medical marijuana, creating even more demand for trained workers, said Natalie D. Eddington, dean at University of Maryland's pharmacy school, in a statement.
Jobs in the industry are already sprouting up, according to study published earlier this year by employment site Glassdoor. It found more than 1,500 cannabis industry job openings in the U.S. as of late last year, a 76% increase compared with a year earlier.
"Most roles in the industry require specialized knowledge, a clear opportunity for higher education programs to offer specific training," said Daniel Zhao, senior economist with Glassdoor. "As the cannabis industry heats up hiring efforts, it's likely we'll see more and more colleges unveil programs to prepare the next generation of talent for this fast-growing workforce."
The University of Maryland's program, which is taking applications through Aug. 15 and begins on Aug. 29, focuses on the basic science of marijuana, as well as clinical uses, adverse effects and the impact on public health. The school will also teach students about federal and state laws governing medical marijuana, the university said.
Harvard and MIT researchers will also be delving into the science of marijuana, thanks to a $9 million gift from investor Charles R. Broderick to fund independent research on the science of cannabinoids. Broderick, who has invested in Canada's cannabis industry, told the Harvard Gazette that he wanted to "fill the research void that currently exists in the science of cannabis."
"I want to destigmatize the conversation around cannabis — and, in part, that means providing facts to the medical community, as well as the general public," Broderick told the publication.