Higher Education: The Top Cannabis Science Courses in the US and Canada
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In years gone by, there was no direct route for a cannabis career. Getting into the industry meant knowing the right people, learning on the job, and, of course, watching out for the police. Fortunately, in 2019, much has changed. Now legal (to some extent) in over 30 US states and Canada, cannabis is the heart of a booming industry, and one in desperate need of new professionals.
As the sector is expected to create nearly 500,000 jobs by 2022, it’s hardly surprising that some employers are in need of an educated workforce. To meet this growing demand for analysts, extractors, and technicians, many universities across the US and Canada are now adding cannabis science courses to their syllabuses.
As of April 2019, here’s the top list of such available and incoming marijuana modules:
US Cannabis Courses
Full cannabis degrees are rare in a country still emerging from prohibition, which is why the Great Lake State is so vital for nurturing the industry’s future leaders; it’s home to not one, but two full cannabis science degrees.
Northern Michigan University’s four-year medical plant chemistry degree provides a more rounded foundation in chemistry and plant biology. While on the Canadian border, Lake Superior State University’s upcoming degree promises to be the first full cannabis chemistry program in the US. Speaking to Analytical Cannabis earlier this year, its organizers said, “We figured that there was no one really training these analysts, not from an academic standpoint. So having a university-developed program would be a really good fit for the industry.”
The Centennial State has a host of non-science cannabis courses for budding professionals who want to work outside the lab. Students can learn cannabis journalism and law at the University of Denver and its Sturm College of Law, respectively and the business of marijuana at its Daniels College of Business. But for a chemical education, there’s really only one place to go: Cloverleaf University. Founded in 2009 in Denver, the university specializes in quick cannabis crash courses to educate students on the knowledge needed to run a dispensary. But hopeful western US chemists can still consider its ‘chemistry for hash makers’ program, a three-day course covering the chemistry related to making hash, extracts, and concentrates.
Housing the US’s biggest cannabis market, California is the unofficial home of American marijuana. It’s unsurprising, then, that the state hosts some of the world’s leading cannabis courses. The UCLA Cannabis Research Initiative, for example, is one of the first academic programs in the world fully dedicated to the study of cannabis. Unfortunately for hopeful students, this seminal facility is designed for researching, not enrolling. But its existence and vital work prove how seriously the Golden State takes its green.
For those looking for classes, UC Davis has just begun its first cannabis graduate course. The seminar-style sessions provide a broad overview of the plant’s biology, biochemistry, and pharmacological potential.
A revolutionary course when launched, the University of Vermont’s cannabis science and medicine program is designed to give the next generation of clinicians an understanding of cannabis’ health benefits. Students will receive a full education in the plant’s biology, cannabis chemistry, and its biological effects on the human body.
Another course designed for medical clinicians, the University of Washington’s medicinal cannabis program primes students to confidently discuss cannabis as a treatment of chronic pain with their patients. Entrants will learn about the body’s endocannabinoid system and how it interacts with cannabis’ unique chemistry.
While the Garden State still mulls over legalizing adult use, students at Stockton University can at least get an education in the substance as part of their minor in cannabis studies. While most of the minor’s five courses center on the bureaucracy of the industry, the program’s coordinator, Kathy Sedia, is an associate professor of biology and so also teaches the clinical merits of cannabis and patient research.
Canadian Cannabis Courses
As the country’s most populated province, Ontario was bound to become the central hub of Canadian cannabis post-legalization. And so many of the region’s universities have adopted cannabis programs to supply this burgeoning market with a capable, educated workforce.
And for the province’s budding cannabis scientists, that education could well start at Niagara College, which offers a commercial cannabis production program that teaches students plant nutrition, pest management, and crop health. Speaking to the Washington Post, the program’s organizer, Professor Bill MacDonald, said that he “had licensed producers come to the college and say, ‘We need highly trained personnel.’ The demand is just huge.”
Collège Boréal, a college based in Sudbury, Ontario, recently launched three online courses in cannabis training available in both English and French. Among financial lessons, any interested science student can also expect to learn cannabis irrigation options, pest management, and crop cycles. Speaking to CBC last year, Julie Nadeau, director of contract training at the college said, “With the cannabis industry obviously in a boom, and the upcoming legislation that's around the corner, there is a very high demand for trained professionals.”
And for those Ontarians who can’t get enough online learning, Ontario Loyalist College has a partnership with the British Columbia university Kwantlen Polytechnic University to provide a range of online cannabis courses, one of which centers on plant production and facility management.
For some, this eastern region may seem too far removed from Canada’s urban centers. Perhaps because of this isolation, the Canadian government was willing to partly fund the tuition fees of 25 students to attend a medical cannabis cultivation course at one of the region’s community colleges. The first course of its kind offered in Canada, Dieppe Community College’s program was also organized by one of the province’s two licensed medical marijuana growers, Organigram.
“It's a science-based program,” Michel Doucet, the executive director of continuing education for the community college, explained to CBC. “Horticulture-based — so vegetation, plant care, control, environment, the watering, the elements that are required for successful growth.”
Mount Royal University in Calgary, Alberta, also recently joined the growing list of universities offering online cannabis courses. Its three modules include one on plant production and facility management.
Reportedly coming as soon as January 2020, McGill University in Montreal will offer a full graduate degree in cannabis production. However, the Washington Post reports that it will only be open to students with botany backgrounds or bachelor’s degrees in related fields.
This eastern province may be one of Canada’s smallest, but there are still cannabis education efforts to be found, such as the agreement reached between St. Francis Xavier University and THC Dispensaries Canada Inc., which will allow around 30 of the university’s students to work at the industrial facility for college credit.
In a press statement, Andrew Kendall, the university’s manager of industry transfers, said that, “there are researchers at StFX with interest and expertise in cannabinoid compounds and how they may provide benefit for a variety of medical conditions. With THC Inc., we see opportunities where our faculty and students can collaborate in these areas.”
Of course, students anywhere in the country can study the online cannabis program of British Columbia’s own Kwantlen Polytechnic University. But there might be an extra aspect of satisfaction studying the university’s plant production and facility management module in its home province.
For those keen to learn from their teachers in-person, Camosun College also offers a cannabis cultivation course on growing and retail consultancy. And students at Okanagan College can elect for its cannabis science module, which aims to “provide the foundation for entry-level positions with licensed production facilities or micro cultivators in the industry.”