The cannabis industry has seen massive growth in recent years, so it's easy to forget that it wasn't that long ago that even some of the biggest businesses in the space had real challenges recruiting highly skilled people to fill out their teams. And recruiters for the industry had a tough time convincing job candidates to take cannabis seriously. People like Karson Humiston - CEO of cannabis employment recruiting platform Vangst - were treated like pranksters when they went to speak with college students about jobs in legal weed market.
"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," Humiston told The Wall Street Journal recently.
But these days things are much different. Recreational cannabis is now legal in 11 states and Washington DC, medical marijuana in another 22. Legal cannabis jobs grew by 74 percent from 2017 to 2018 adding more than 50,000 positions. And colleges are starting to take notice.
Schools like the University of Maryland are now offering master's level degrees in medical marijuana while many others such as Cornell University are beginning to add cannabis-focused courses to their plant sciences curriculum. These new program offerings are both inspired by the kinds of things students have been asking for but also by a feeling of responsibility among academic centers to help prepare the workforce for the era of legal cannabis.
"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," said Natalie Eddington—dean of School of Pharmacy at UMD.
And for the students who are among the first to be admitted to some of these new cannabis-focused university programs it could mean a huge boost top their careers.
"There's very little limit in where the [cannabis] industry can go," said Diana Ciechorska—a student at Cornell who is currently interning at a cannabis focused investment firm. "There are so many fewer players in the space, so you can get further ahead in your career much faster."
And hopefully the federal government will finally stop making in unnecessarily difficult for universities to perform cannabis research and we'll start seeing a whole lot more doors open up for young academics with passion for marijuana.