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The Effect of Cannabis Legalization on Higher Education

College has always been seen as a stepping stone to a career for every type of business.  For many years, the cannabis industry has been left out of that shuffle of business topics in college settings.  Now that multi-state legalization has taken effect and the nation has seen the positive results of legalization, the term “higher education” has taken on a whole new meaning.

Since legalization has kicked in, there has been an outpouring of support for the inclusion of cannabis courses on college campuses.  Courses ranging from farming cannabis to marketing/selling cannabis (and everything in between) is now being contemplated and implemented at universities and trade schools across the country.  Let’s looking into the lasting effect that these courses will have on the cannabis industry and the public’s perception of cannabis in general.

Colleges and Cannabis Unite

Universities have made a stance to not include marijuana in their lesson plans for years due to the state-to-state illegalities, but cannabis legalization has made it impossible to stay the course on this mindset.  As of 2017, the cannabis industry was valued at $9 billion and had created 200,000 new jobs.  By 2025, the global legal marijuana market is expected to reach over $146 billion.  Given the domestic and global trend towards medicinal and recreational cannabis legalization and the multitude of businesses those laws will create, U.S. universities are beginning to prepare their students for emerging jobs in this growing market.

Professors are tackling the complex cannabis industry from the ground up in their scientifically-backed courses that are aimed at dispelling myths that, for years, may have passed between illicit growers.  These professors want these research-backed processes to be directly infused into the cannabis industry by their students right after graduation.  These fully transferrable skills are allowing students to learn a valuable trade in an industry that is growing fast and furiously in every direction.

Cannabis Programs: Trade Schools or Four-Year Degrees?

Degrees at most of these universities are supported in two ways: trade schools and traditional four-year institutions.  Trade schools have been trailblazing cannabis degrees prior to legalization, teaching students how to cultivate and manage cannabis plants in many unique ways.  Four-year institutions are taking this approach one step further, giving students the ability to explore the plant science of cannabis all the way down to its chemical compounds while also identifying the molecular structure of the plant genus.

This allows students to understand the varying legalization statuses of different plants from a biological standpoint, rather than just knowing what each strain looks like and their intended effects.  Many of these four-year programs dive into the chemistry, biology, botany, horticulture, marketing, finance, business, journalism, as well as marijuana policy and law which allows graduates to showcase the interdisciplinary skills required in the industry to succeed.

The Potential Impact of College Cannabis Degrees on Marijuana Culture

Even though universities are well equipped to handle the prospect of adding cannabis degrees to their prospectuses, the stigma and questionable legal territory the marijuana industry occupies has made it difficult for universities to completely embrace these additions.  But, although universities are skiddish to dive head-first into this new endeavor, American culture is making the transition easier to stomach.  As more people are starting to see cannabis as an investment opportunity Instead of a subculture or a black-market economy, more universities will likely continue to hop on the bandwagon to offering cannabis degrees.

Since many Americans are straying away from smokable marijuana products, the market for edibles, oils, and other cannabis products is set to take off.  Although cannabis has come a long way legally and culturally, many universities are likely to ignore cannabis until it becomes federally legal in all 50 states.  With the decision for legal cannabis product development, sales, consumption, and transport from sea to shining sea still not set in stone in the U.S., colleges are hedging their bets and playing it safe until that time comes.

These risk averse universities are playing it safe since federal legalization could come at any time; in the next 50 days, 50 months, or even possibly 50 years from now (we’re betting on sooner rather than later).  Whenever legalization does happen in the U.S., you can be rest assured that many college campuses will lead the charge to ensure that the industry is well-prepared to handle the demand drive that is sure to increase once that day comes.

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