Cannabis Courses Take Root at Tri-State Colleges

With adult-use marijuana now legal in Connecticut, New Jersey, and New York, schools across the region are responding with new cannabis majors, minors, and courses.
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  • New Jersey, New York, and Connecticut each legalized adult-use marijuana in 2021.
  • Colleges in the tri-state region have responded by increasing cannabis majors, minors, and courses.
  • The cannabis industry supported nearly 430,000 full time jobs as of January 2022.

As American colleges and universities respond to pressure to better prepare graduates for the 21st century job market, they're increasingly offering courses in one of the most prolific job-creating industries in America today: cannabis.

Jobs in the legal cannabis industry increased 33% in 2021 from the year before to a total of nearly 430,000 full time jobs in 11 operating adult-use markets and 27 medical states, according to a new report by Leafly, a cannabis marketing company, and Whitney Economics, a cannabis and hemp business research consultancy.

With Connecticut, New Jersey, and New York expected to open adult-use (also known as "recreational") markets in the next 18 months, the report predicts job creation in the cannabis industry to boom through 2025. And as legalization advances through the tri-state region, colleges and universities in those states are responding by increasing cannabis-focused degree programs and classes.

New Jersey, New York, and Connecticut each legalized adult-use marijuana last year, and each state is in the process of developing regulations and licensing for cultivation operations and dispensaries. Including these three states, adult recreational marijuana use is now legal in 18 states and the District of Columbia, and medical use of marijuana is legal in 37 states, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

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The latest addition to the list of institutions offering cannabis-specific degrees is New York City's LIM College, which announced last month the launch of a master of professional studies (MPS) program in the business of cannabis. The program, which LIM said is the first of its kind, will be delivered online and can be completed in one year.

The master's program is the second cannabis-focused program for LIM, which has offered a bachelor of business administration degree in the business of cannabis since October 2021.

"We developed the master's program in the business of cannabis with tremendous input from industry professionals," Elizabeth S. Marcuse, president of LIM College, said in a news release. "They know the type of knowledge and skills cannabis employers are seeking in job candidates."

The University of Connecticut began offering what it claims is the nation's first university class on the fundamentals of cannabis horticulture in 2019. Last April, it expanded its offerings with both basic and advanced cannabis courses for its students and the general public.

"Our students see career opportunities and want to gain experience. Businesses need highly trained scientists to support the growth of this industry, and they are seeking talented graduates to enter this workforce," Gerald Berkowitz, a professor of plant science at UConn's College of Agriculture, Health and Natural Resources, said in a press release.

— Gerald Berkowitz, professor of plant science at the University of Connecticut

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State University of New York (SUNY) Morrisville's 16-credit minor in cannabis studies launched in fall 2019 and is designed to prepare students for careers in the industry by combining portions of the school's agricultural science, horticulture, and business programs.

"As I read the job descriptions for this field, it is everything we teach," Kelly Hennigan, associate professor of horticulture and chair of SUNY Morrisville's horticulture department, said in a release. "They need attention to detail, they need the science behind the propagation of these plants. They need knowledge about fertilizer. It is all applicable."

Brooklyn's Medgar Evers College last fall became the first City University of New York campus to offer a cannabis minor. In line with the legacy of the school's namesake, the college's program will put equity and social justice at the forefront.

"The central tenet of this entire program is to achieve targeted outcomes that will elevate a community that has been sidelined, blocked out, stifled, alienated, and even forgotten because of the devastating and adverse impact of the U.S.'s historical war on drugs and associated cannabis policies," said Dr. Alicia Reid, chair of Medgar Evers College's chemistry and environmental sciences department.