With any growing and thriving industry comes the need for more specialized jobs and experts operating in their niche within said industry. The legal cannabis industry is no different. And while the absurdity of cannabis’ illegality and classification at the federal level continues to stumble forward, the need for those who have a higher degree of understanding of the plant medicine continues to grow. This, in turn, creates a market incentive for colleges and universities to offer programs that teach curriculums surrounding plant medicine. One small college in Michigan is doing just that, by offering a major called ‘medicinal plant chemistry’.
Located in Marquette, Michigan, Northern Michigan University (NMU) reportedly developed the medicinal plant chemistry program in direct response to the ever-increasing need for knowledgeable analytical chemists in the ever-expanding and lucrative legal cannabis industry.
According to NMU, the medicinal plant chemistry program is the first degree of its kind at a four-year undergraduate college. Through their first degree, NMU aims to become highly involved in the cannabis industry. The industry is expected to employ up to 300,000 Americans by 2020.
“The need for this is so great. You go to some of these cannabis industry conferences and everyone is talking about how they need labs, they need labs,” NMU Associate Chemistry Professor Brandon Canfield said in an interview with CBS Detroit. “I predict that the graduates from our program are going to have among the highest immediate job placement of any of our programs.”
Mark Paulsen is in charge of NMU’s chemistry department. He recently expressed his excitement towards the new major, stating that the idea for the program came from the desire to explore medicinal plants as alternative to traditional medicine.
“We have met any number of small or medium-sized business people who are making a wide variety of medicinal products,” Paulsen told reporters for WXYZ ABC 7. “In addition, the growing acceptance of medical cannabis and, in some states, completely legal selling of cannabis products means that there is a demand for trained chemists to help ensure product safety and efficacy.”
Consuming cannabis on the NMU campus will not be part of the initial medicinal plant chemistry curriculum, but it is college after all. According to Paulsen, twelve students have already enrolled in the program. He expects that number to double or triple by this time next year.
Michigan legalized medical cannabis back in 2008, with over 200,000 patients currently holding medical marijuana cards in the state.