The four-year degree program, formally called Medical Plant Chemistry, is in its inception this semester. About a dozen students are currently enrolled in the program, and more and more students are showing interest.
“We’re gaining students every week,” Mark Paulsen, director of Northern Michigan’s chemistry department, said, according to USA Today. “With a full 12 months of recruitment, we expect that to grow.”
But the program isn’t as chilled out as one might think.
“Obviously, the program is new and different and it might speak to a certain crowd. But for a student to succeed, they’re going to have to be very dedicated and motivated,” Brandon Canfield, the associate chemistry professor who developed the Medical Plant Chemistry curriculum, told the Detroit Free Press. “This is not an easy program. It’s a really intense, biology chemistry program.”
The program, which has basic requirements in general chemistry, biochemistry, organic chemistry and plant physiology, branches into two tracks: a bio-analytical track and an entrepreneurial track. Those who choose the bio-analytical track are to further their studies with courses in atomic spectrometry, genetics and biostatistics, while those who choose the entrepreneurial track are required to take courses in accounting, entrepreneurship and finance.
“When (people) hear what my major is, there are a lot of people who say, ‘Wow, cool, dude. You’re going to get a degree growing marijuana,’” said sophomore student Alex Roth. “But it’s not an easy degree at all.”
Other universities across the country offer marijuana-related courses and certificate programs. But according to CNN, Northern Michigan’s program may be the first in the country to offer up a fully focused marijuana-based undergraduate degree.
Roth and other students enrolled in the program understand that their major doesn’t mean they’ll be growing the plant. They want to help bust stereotypes about marijuana and focus on medicinal properties to combat such conditions as chronic pain, nausea, seizures and glaucoma.
Twenty-nine states have legalized marijuana, WITI reported. Eight of those states, including Maine, Massachusetts, Oregon and Washington, have legalized recreational marijuana.
According to the San Francisco Gate, the marijuana industry is expected to grow more than 100 percent to $44 billion per year by 2020.
“Many of the states are legalizing different substances and they’re really looking for quality people to do the chemistry and the science,” university trustee James Haveman told the Detroit Free Press. “And it’s the university’s responsibility to produce those kinds of students for those kinds of jobs.”
“We’ve had an overwhelming response from growing operations, dispensaries and other businesses who want to take on our students as interns,” Canfield said. “I expect in the next couple years we’ll see quite a few of these programs popping up.”