By Luke Sholl

Cannabusiness is on the rise with the wave of legalization sweeping through North America and other parts of the world. Canada is set to fully legalize recreational marijuana from 2018 onwards. In the US, eight states and the capital, Washington DC have legalized recreational marijuana. Over half of states have legalized medical marijuana with close to all states allowing for anti-inflammatory, anxiety-relieving cannabidiol (CBD). Forbes predicts US recreational marijuana sales will reach $11.2 billion by the year 2020. In Nevada's first month of legal marijuana sales, over $27.1 million was made. With demand surging, quality control is more important than ever.


There is only going to be greater demand for the scientific expertise required to analise cannabis. Chemical composition, effects, medical applications; these attributes of the cannabis plant are determined by complex biochemistry. If you have a passion for science and for cannabis, then you now have the opportunity for a career in both. The academic world has started to offer courses, diplomas, and certificates to signify your canna-qualifications. Such institutions include Oaksterdam University in Oakland, or further up California's coast, Humboldt Cannabis College in the heart of the Emerald Triangle. But now, big universities are backing the study of cannabis.

University Students


Major law schools offering policy modules on cannabis include Harvard and Vanderbilt. The Daniels College of Business at the University of Denver is starting a module called the Business of Marijuana. Scientific faculties are also realising how rich the field of studying cannabis could be. Northern Michigan University has launched a four-year undergraduate degree in science called Medicinal Plant Chemistry. A university degree focused on cannabis might raise some stoners' expectations too high. You won't be getting high as part of this degree because you will barely have access to cannabis.


Cannabis is legal for medical use in Michigan following voters' 2008 referendum on the Michigan Compassionate Care Initiative. Michigan’s regime for accessing medical cannabis is one of the more restrictive in the United States, typically reserved for the "terminally and seriously ill." A pair of referendums on Election Day 2017 relaxed regulations around dispensaries in Detroit. The laws vary from county to county in Michigan. Detroit and Flint have decriminalised cannabis possession of 1 ounce (28g) or less for persons 21 years and older. Ann Arbor has famously had some of the most lenient cannabis possession laws in the US since the 1970s. There are still harsh penalties for the sale and cultivation of cannabis for non-medical purposes.


So don't expect a free-for-all studying Medicinal Plant Chemistry in the university town of Marquette. Students may have access to cannabis plants through internships with Michigan's licenced medical cannabis suppliers. Other than that, there will be lots of challenging study, lab work, and optional business modules. Cannabis will not be the only plant considered for its medical benefits. Students will study St. John's Wort and other herbal remedies. The point of this degree is to understand how the fine chemical balance in each plant impacts the human body. Achieving this degree requires a firm command of botany, genetics, physical geography, and organic chemistry.

The first year of this course has only enrolled a dozen students. More shall surely follow as demand for expertise in the cannabis industry grows. With this degree, one would be able to analise cannabis for any medical or recreational producer. If this seems like a calling to you, Northern Michigan University might be for you. Keep an eye out for the next college to offer a cannabis-related degree.

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