Right now, there are at least ten cannabis legalization bills sitting on Capitol Hill waiting to be passed by lawmakers who are increasingly aware of their constituents’ desire for cannabis regulation. This tide of legislation comes in the face of Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ most recent attack on cannabis, representing the loudest signal yet of the end of federal prohibition.
Market experts predict that by 2021, the legal cannabis industry will generate about $40 billion, and that doesn’t include a climate in which prohibition has been dismantled. The stage is set for a nationally legal cannabis industry with an economic impact the size of a small country. The industry’s birth presents hard-working risk takers with the once in a lifetime opportunity to get involved when legal cannabis is still defining itself.
For those who are interested in plant-touching jobs, there are several avenues into rewarding work in the cultivation, processing, lab testing, and retail sides of the business. If you’re interested in getting an education before taking the plunge, here are the top majors to consider studying.
The cultivation sector of the industry is where cannabis is grown, be it indoor or outdoor. There would be no cannabis industry without cultivators, so this is one of the most secure job opportunities within legal cannabis. That means it will also be one of the most competitive to get into. Having one of the following degrees will prepare prospective cultivators and set them apart from the rest.
Horticulture is the science of growing, enhancing, selling, and using plants. It focuses both on the practical aspect of cultivation as well as the artistry of it. This major will equip students with comprehensive knowledge about sustainable cultivation practices, the medicinal application of plants, organic agriculture, breeding, greenhouse management, and more. The information gleaned from a horticulture major will inform the cultivation of all plants, cannabis included.
This major prepares students to run farms. Ag business programs may be tailored to small, medium, or large-scale operations, but each will impart students with the information they need to excel at the intersection of technology, law, business, and agriculture. Cannabis grow operations are farms, and they operate much like the ones that are federally regulated. This degree is a great fit for someone who aspires to run a grow facility.
The environmental side of the major gives students an in-depth analysis of the way that human civilization impacts the environment. The sustainability side gives students the opportunity to explore ways to enhance these interactions so that they are more environmentally friendly. The way that cannabis is cultivated has the potential to deteriorate the environment or spearhead sustainable practices that other agricultural industries can learn from. It will take environment and sustainability experts to keep the cannabis industry on the right track.
Processing and Lab Testing
Processing and lab testing are very different, but they both require scientific knowledge. Processors extract cannabis and infuse it into products like edibles or topicals. Lab testing facilities are staffed by scientists who analyze the quality and safety of the products they are testing.
This major involves the use of math, theory, and experimentation to understand matter and how it works at the molecular level. An untrained extract technician may know how to use CO2 to extract cannabis, but a chemist knows why it works as well as solvents that may work better. A lab technician without this knowledge can follow a testing protocol to determine the potency and safety of cannabis, but the chemist can design and improve the protocol.
Forensic science is typically associated with criminal justice, but cannabis lab technicians are functionally doing the same thing as state-employed forensic scientists. This major teaches students how to use state of the art testing technology and science to study a substance. In addition to collecting evidence and conducting tests, forensic scientists are equipped to analyze the test results and make recommendations based on what they find. These kinds of skills will go a long way in improving the testing and processing sectors of the cannabis industry.
This comprehensive major gives students the opportunity to use multiple sciences to study drugs. Often, these majors will continue their education and contribute significantly to the research and development of pharmaceuticals. This major provides multiple pathways into the industry. It will equip students to experiment, research, and analyze cannabis for a variety of uses.
This sector of the cannabis industry is comprised of the consumer-facing stores tailored to medical patients or recreational users. Running a dispensary is a lot like running any business, and these majors will empower students to step into that position of entrepreneurial authority.
This major involves the detailed study of how to best allocate people, the most valuable resource a business has. A management major deals heavily in the areas of communication, conflict management, and administration.
Business is a broad term that covers an array of topics including accounting, management, marketing, human resources, finance, project management, economics and more. This is an excellent choice for someone who is not only interested in managing a cannabis store, but starting one (or any business for that matter).
Economics is the study of how money and other limited resources are made, traded, and used. The cannabis industry is new, and one of the most important ways entrepreneurs can anchor themselves in its volatile waters is to know how to use market data to identify trends and make predictions. This major will help cannabis entrepreneurs find the current headed toward success.
And Lots More…
The plant-touching sectors of the cannabis industry are supported by ancillary businesses or those that do not come in direct contact with cannabis but provide products and services to sustain the businesses that do. The scope of the cannabis industry is so broad, that you can probably major in anything and find a way to get involved.
For example, the study of law will be especially beneficial in the early phases of the industry as businesses navigate the complex regulations of their states’ laws. A major in marketing or communications will equip students with the tools needed to build lasting brands. But the real money probably lies in the computer engineering, science, and other technology-related degrees as cannabis software continues to develop in an increasingly technological age.