Careers in marijuana catch on at colleges
This article first appeared in the Wall Street Journal.
By Likhitha Butchireddygari
Two major universities are creating the first career paths for
young people interested in the business of marijuana.
The University of Maryland announced in June that its School of
Pharmacy will offer a master’s degree in medical cannabis, and a new course is
also being added this fall at Cornell University’s School of Integrative Plant
Science called “Cannabis: Biology, Society and Industry.”
“I advise a lot of students in a lot of majors and they’re all
like, this is going to be cool,” said Antonio DiTommaso, program director for
agricultural sciences at Cornell. “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.”
According to the course description for Cornell’s fall course,
some of the industry’s challenges include “establishing better agricultural
supply chains, breeding research to develop more vigorous and disease resistant
varieties, refining/improving farming practices and identifying new markets.”
Natalie Eddington, dean of Maryland’s pharmacy school, decided
to form a master’s program after identifying a knowledge gap regarding medical
cannabis for graduates going into health care.
“We have this burgeoning industry across the country in medical
cannabis, and with that industry, there has to be an educated workforce, and so
we tried to do our part to respond to that,” Ms. Eddington said.
Recreational marijuana use is legal in 11 states and Washington,
D.C., and medicinal use in another 22 states. Legal cannabis added more than
50,000 jobs in 2018—a 74% increase in jobs in the industry from a year ago.
In addition to universities, the industry is also trying to
create cannabis learning opportunities. Cresco Labs, a Chicago-based cannabis
company, announced in May that it would work with universities to create
cannabis-focused courses, offer scholarships for “people from communities most
negatively impacted by the war on drugs” and generate research in plant
science. Thus far, the company has partnered with 10 universities.
While Cornell and Maryland are willing to give cannabis a
chance, many universities are not ready to embrace the industry. Don Boggs,
associate dean of academic programs at Kansas State University’s College of
Agriculture, said that he hasn’t seen interest from his students, which could
be because Kansas is one of 10 states where cannabis is fully illegal.
“The cannabis industry is not something that’s been embraced by
the state of Kansas,” Mr. Boggs said.
For the past few years, Karson Humiston, the founder and chief
executive of Vangst, a recruiting platform for cannabis, has tried to lure
workers on college campuses with varying levels of success.
“In 2015, I was going around college campus to college campus,
setting up a little booth to collect resumes and profiles, and the amount of
schools that just kicked me off the campuses, being like, ‘You can’t be here
promoting cannabis jobs,’ was unbelievable,” Ms. Humiston said. “I think it’s
getting better, but there’s still a ways to go.”
In the fall, Diana Ciechorska will be one of the first students
to take the new cannabis course at Cornell. She already has started a
CannaBusiness group at Cornell with a few of her friends.
Through the group, they were able to bring speakers working in
the field to campus. Now, she is interning at Northern Swan, an investment firm
that’s focused on all parts of the cannabis supply chain.
“There’s very little limit in where the industry can go,” she
said. “There are so many fewer players in the space, so you can get further
ahead in your career much faster.”
Young people today are more inclined to consider a job in
cannabis because of changing attitudes toward the industry. Gallup polling
shows that American support for the legalization of marijuana has been steadily
increasing in the past decade and reached an all-time high at 66% approval in
“A few years ago, if you had said to your parents, ‘Oh hey, I’m
going to go to school and major in horticulture and then get a job in
cannabis,’ people wouldn’t have taken you seriously,” Ms. Humiston said.
The marijuana industry also provides opportunities across a
spectrum of disciplines, from plant science to business to technology. Interest
in working with plants has made agriculture one of the fastest-growing degrees
on U.S. campuses.
Some of that growth stems from marijuana, but the rise is
largely fueled by increasing job opportunities, as well as a growing interest
in where food comes from and how it can be produced economically and
sustainably, Mr. DiTommaso said.
Read the full article on the Wall Street Journal.