Colleges Put Cannabis Studies on the Curriculum

In New Jersey and elsewhere, students seek a leg up in all aspects of an industry that’s expected to soar high

It’s a trend happening across the country — law schools, business schools, and science departments are incorporating marijuana into the curriculum.

“Sort of like tech was in the early ‘70s, no one knew a lot about it, but everyone wanted to get into it,” said Stockton University adjunct professor Tom Olah.

Stockton University introduced a new cannabis studies minor in the fall of 2018. Olah teaches a course called, “Medical Marijuana in New Jersey.” He says students are on wait lists to get in.

“The students are looking for jobs. They’re looking for jobs in the industry. They want to be educated, they want to be competitive, and they want to know more than the next guy in this industry,” Olah said.

Communications major A.J. Kent says her goal is to have a consumer goods product line or company based on hemp or cannabis. “Laundry detergents, shampoos, Band-Aids maybe, things like that,” Kent said.

Opening a ‘whole new door’

Stockton sophomore Jenna Misciascio also sees opportunity in New Jersey’s untapped market, should it vote to legalize recreational marijuana.

“When they announced that they were going to have a cannabis studies minor, it just opened up a whole new door to my future. It gave me a leg up from everybody else that can’t get a degree in cannabis right now,” Misciascio said.

Michigan legalized medical marijuana in 2008 and recently legalized recreational use. Professor Mark Paulsen at Northern Michigan University says that school’s program, “Medicinal Plant Chemistry,” has gone from zero students to 250 in just two years. He says this major will train students to enter multiple fields.

“Working in quality assurance in a production facility or working in a safety and compliance lab. Also we are training them on the technical end to work in a production facility so they’ll be learning about extraction techniques and the basic science behind converting the raw plant material,” Paulsen said.

In Colorado, where both medicinal and recreational marijuana are legal, University of Denver assistant professor Paul Seaborn says colleges would be doing a disservice to not provide options for students to learn about the industry.

There’s a demand for these studies

“If you have a good understanding of finance, or accounting, or marketing that’s a good foundation, but this is a very unique industry particularly in terms of the different regulations that each state or each jurisdiction is putting in place,” said Seaborn. “And that’s really the key piece that we offer with this course.”

“We’re getting inquiries from essentially all 50 states, so I think there’s a demand for this sort of curriculum. There’s a real interest in it right now, and so we fully expect that other universities will come up with some variation of this major,” said Paulsen.

In New Jersey, Union County College will offer a course called “Medicinal Plant Chemistry” in the 2019-2020 academic year.