Pubdate: Mon, 29 Jul 2019
Source: Wall Street Journal (US)
Copyright: 2019 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.
Author: Likhitha Butchireddygari


Two major universities are creating the first career paths for young
people interested in the business of marijuana.

The University of Maryland announced in June that its School of Pharmacy 
will offer a master's degree in medical cannabis, and a new course is 
also being added this fall at Cornell University's School of Integrative 
Plant Science called "Cannabis: Biology, Society and Industry."

"I advise a lot of students in a lot of majors and they're all like,
this is going to be cool," said Antonio DiTommaso, program director
for agricultural sciences at Cornell. "I think some of it is just a
novelty, but it's really going to be based on the cropping, the
agronomics, the medicinal aspect, the chemistry, consumer attitudes
and policy."

According to the course description for Cornell's fall course, some of
the industry's challenges include "establishing better agricultural
supply chains, breeding research to develop more vigorous and disease
resistant varieties, refining/improving farming practices and
identifying new markets."

Natalie Eddington, dean of Maryland's pharmacy school, decided to form
a master's program after identifying a knowledge gap regarding medical
cannabis for graduates going into health care.

"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," Ms.
Eddington said.

Recreational marijuana use is legal in 11 states and Washington, D.C.,
and medicinal use in another 22 states. Legal cannabis added more than
50,000 jobs in 2018-a 74% increase in jobs in the industry from a year

In addition to universities, the industry is also trying to create
cannabis learning opportunities. Cresco Labs, a Chicago-based cannabis
company, announced in May that it would work with universities to
create cannabis-focused courses, offer scholarships for "people from
communities most negatively impacted by the war on drugs" and generate
research in plant science. Thus far, the company has partnered with 10

While Cornell and Maryland are willing to give cannabis a chance, many
universities are not ready to embrace the industry. Don Boggs,
associate dean of academic programs at Kansas State University's
College of Agriculture, said that he hasn't seen interest from his
students, which could be because Kansas is one of 10 states where
cannabis is fully illegal.

"The cannabis industry is not something that's been embraced by the
state of Kansas," Mr. Boggs said.

For the past few years, Karson Humiston, the founder and chief
executive of Vangst, a recruiting platform for cannabis, has tried to
lure workers on college campuses with varying levels of success.

"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," Ms. Humiston
said. "I think it's getting better, but there's still a ways to go."

In the fall, Diana Ciechorska will be one of the first students to
take the new cannabis course at Cornell. She already has started a
CannaBusiness group at Cornell with a few of her friends.

Through the group, they were able to bring speakers working in the
field to campus. Now, she is interning at Northern Swan, an investment
firm that's focused on all parts of the cannabis supply chain.

"There's very little limit in where the industry can go," she said.
"There are so many fewer players in the space, so you can get further
ahead in your career much faster."

Young people today are more inclined to consider a job in cannabis
because of changing attitudes toward the industry. Gallup polling
shows that American support for the legalization of marijuana has been
steadily increasing in the past decade and reached an all-time high at
66% approval in October 2018.

"A few years ago, if you had said to your parents, 'Oh hey, I'm going
to go to school and major in horticulture and then get a job in
cannabis,' people wouldn't have taken you seriously," Ms. Humiston

The marijuana industry also provides opportunities across a spectrum
of disciplines, from plant science to business to technology. Interest
in working with plants has made agriculture one of the fastest-growing
degrees on U.S. campuses.

Some of that growth stems from marijuana, but the rise is largely
fueled by increasing job opportunities, as well as a growing interest
in where food comes from and how it can be produced economically and
sustainably, Mr. DiTommaso said.

Max Salinger's interest in plants was piqued at a young age-he grew up
working in greenhouses with his horticulturalist mother in Cleveland.
But it wasn't until he went to college at Ohio State University that
he began to see the true wonder of plant science.

Using technology and science, you could "manipulate everything about
these plants from their fertility to their environment from start to
finish." That realization led Mr. Salinger to cannabis, a crop that
can economically sustain a lot of experimentation because of its price

"What really drew me in the first place was like, 'Ah, this is the
industry where I'm going to play with the coolest tools. I'm going to
be able to use the newest technology'," Mr. Salinger said.

Working with cannabis also provides a chance for young people to help
cure society's ills, said John Depalo, a 21-year-old intern at Cresco
Labs, which launched a summer internship program this year with 50

A few years ago, Armen Yemenidjian, the 33-year old president of Green
Thumb Industries Inc., worked in casino marketing and operations in
Las Vegas. He had a negative impression of marijuana until he saw its
positive impact on people suffering from such medical issues as epilepsy.

"People are seeing anecdotally that this plant is helping people," he
said. "I think that's where the excitement comes from for the
University of Maryland School of Pharmacy to offer a graduate degree
in medical cannabis or understanding the plant chemistry."
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