Courtesy of SUNY Morrisville
- US schools are increasingly preparing students for cannabis jobs.
- These schools are offering cannabis courses on everything from business to botany.
- Because marijuana is still illegal in many US states, and because of the stigma around cannabis, teaching the classes can be challenging.
- Visit BusinessInsider.com for more stories.
With the cannabis industry booming, US colleges and universities are increasingly offering programs that prepare students for careers in the business.
Marijuana is the fastest growing industry in the US, according to a report from cannabis website Leafly and the consultancy Whitney Economics. And now, many schools are capitalizing on the opportunity.
Daniels College of Business, at the University of Denver, recently started offering a course on the business of marijuana. The class, which is open to undergraduates, features guest speakers who work in different facets of the cannabis industry, like a recruiting platform and a cannabis and hemp investment firm. Students then profile different cannabis companies, before ultimately pitching their own business.
According to Paul Seaborn, assistant professor in the department of management and the designer of the course, several Denver alumni have gone on to work in the industry, where they apply components of their business pitch.
The semester culminates in a field trip to Sweet Grass Kitchen, a local edibles manufacturer. There, students get a chance to hear from management and tour their facility. "That’s always a pretty interesting eye opener," Seaborn told Business Insider, "because the average person just doesn’t have a chance to walk into those facilities and see what’s going on."
Meanwhile, at SUNY Morrisville in New York, students can sign up for Introductory Cannabis, which is part of the school’s brand-new cannabis industry minor. The goal, Morrisville professors say, is to equip students with the knowledge and experience necessary to pursue a range of cannabis-related careers (think botany, production and processing, and marketing).
Because the Morrisville campus boasts resources including a greenhouse and an organic farm, students learn "from start to finish how to cultivate, produce, harvest, and breed cannabis plants in a variety of different settings," Kelly Hennigan, horticulture department chair, told Business Insider. Morrisville has a license to grow hemp plants, which are all below 0.3% THC, meaning they don’t contain the chemicals that cause psychoactive effects.
There’s still a stigma around cannabis, which can make these courses challenging
Courtesy of Paul SeabornTo be sure, any cannabis-related course — whether it focuses on horticulture or business — poses unique challenges.
For one thing, marijuana is still illegal in many US states, including New York. (Governor Andrew Cuomo proposed legalizing recreational marijuana in 2019.)
Yet even in Colorado, where recreational marijuana is legal, Seaborn said a significant challenge is dealing with the general stigma around cannabis. But he said, "I’ve had some amazing feedback about students who have taken the course and then shared some of the books and things that they’ve been exposed to with their parents, and their parents have read them, and it’s led to all sorts of discussions."
Seaborn added that students who take his "business of marijuana" course become much more emotionally invested in the content than students in, say, his consulting courses. The guest speakers, he said, are "business people who’ve taken some pretty big risks and maybe walked away from other opportunities to join something that is pretty new and uncharted."
Both the number and breadth of cannabis courses are growing quickly. According to Marketwatch, Northern Michigan University students can major in medicinal plant chemistry; enrollment shot from zero to 230 in the first two years. And University of California-Davis offers a course on the health risks of cannabis.
Seaborn said many schools are understandably wary of offering cannabis courses. "The same way that students are having to really navigate this whole new emerging world, I think it also is forcing business schools and universities in general to also try to figure out what their role should be and what the right pace of getting involved is."
- Share your opinion — become a BI Insider!
- Porn will be age-blocked across the UK on July 15
- MIT researchers discovered a way to move objects as heavy as a great white shark with your bare hands. Take a look.