Accredited Cannabis: Seeking Higher EducationAccreditation is an important factor when researching any college; however, in a burgeoning industry with many for-profit schools jumping on board, cannabis students would be wise to do their homework.
As far back as 2015, Oaksterdam University in Oakland, CA was mentioned as providing a program in cannabis education: one of the first. According to their website, the school was founded in 2007 to provide the knowledge and skills students need to succeed in the industry. In addition to award-winning faculty, the school offers everything from a historical perspective on prohibition to recent developments in cultivation, business, policy, and legalization. With an alumni class of over 50k, the school offers a large community of industry professionals and successful entrepreneurs.
Other than dollar signs, cannabis education at Oaksterdam comes with a few costs: the school is a for-profit college with no real degree program and no accreditation from any academic agency or institution. While this might look good on a resume and get a recruiter to call you back, it will not be considered formal education as required on job applications, like a Bachelor of Science (BS), Master of Science (MS), or Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) would be.
Certificates Vs. Degree Programs
While education is the primary goal of both programs, the format, cost, and syllabus requirements are much different.
Offer industry and skill-set-focused programs; designed to give students a specific skill set to augment or enhance their knowledge as applied to a specific job. Most certificate programs last mere months, although some programs offer more in-depth and detailed courses. Some certificates, such as graduate certificates, can be accredited and stacked to obtain a Master’s degree at higher education institutions that a regional agency has accredited.
Vary in difficulty level, ranging from an associate degree (2-year degree plans) up through a Doctorate (8+ years). Degree programs are designed to create a well-rounded student, often including core classes that all students must complete, regardless of degree path. Costs vary, depending on the quality of education or the designation of for- or non-profit. Many accredited (and non- or under accredited) schools offer financial aid programs and online courses to assist students in achieving their goals.
School accreditations range from national to regional, with regional being the most valuable and widely used. Schools with regional accreditation are located throughout the United States, up to and including Ivy League schools. Obtaining a regionally accredited degree opens the door to a higher level and allows transferring completed credits to another school.
As of August 2019, many colleges began to develop coursework in the cannabis industry. At the time, Northern Michigan University was the only college to offer a 4-year bachelor’s program designed to educate students on science and research in the cannabis industry.
A report released by Leafly shows that legal cannabis supports a record-high 321,000 full-time American jobs across 37 states as of February 2021. Additionally, the speed of job growth in legal cannabis exceeded every other American industry, doubling since 2018. That’s a 161% increase over the last four years.
Job opportunities range from Budtender (sales and marketing) to research scientist, potentially earning an average of $81,593 annually. The former requires little to no experience (although more education and experience looks better on any resume), while the latter requires an MS or Ph.D.
In an interview with Cannabis Tech, Dr. Michael (Bhodi) Tims, Instructor & Program Manager of Herbal Product Design and Cannabis Science at Maryland University of Integrative Health (MUIH), stated, “There’s a place at the table for everything from herbalist to herbal manufacturer...[cannabis education] is ripe ground for a lot of cowboys and also for a lot of people trying to do good. What we need is to raise the bar in terms of the level of scientific literacy, the level of understanding of how to deploy this as an herbal or drug-like substance, how to differentiate what the safety concerns are, and to get the ‘evil weed’ narrative out of the whole conversation.”
Raising the Bar
For over five years, Dr. Tims pushed for a Cannabis Science program under the umbrella of herbal medicine at MUIH. Not only did he jump through hoops due to the illegality of cannabis at the federal level potentially interfering with funding, but he also had to obtain approval and accreditation from the Maryland Higher Education Commission before he could begin the first cohort.
He believes that while the human psyche reveres the snake oil salesman, we cannot have a cure-all approach when it comes to cannabis: “Cannabis becomes a micro chasm for an ongoing conversation. On one side, you have a single entity, ‘magic bullet,’ receptor-based, trackable interaction that has a medical outcome and [on the other side] something that is polypharmacy. We’re seeing the pharmaceutical industry now use polypharmacy in a number of conditions such as HIV and multiple cancers. That has always been true in herbal medicine.”
To keep MUIH ahead of the pack, they continue to be a source of knowledge in an industry full of unknowns. They offer multiple accredited degree programs, from the Post-Baccalaureate Certificate in Cannabis Science to an MS in Herbal Product Design and Manufacturing. Dr. Tims assured us they have, “infused cannabis into almost every course.”
Choices, Choices, Choices
Someone once said, “You can do anything you want in life, as long as you are prepared to deal with the consequences of your actions: Good or Bad.” College is hard enough without setting your future self up for failure. Find a quality, regionally accredited program.
Here are a few other schools currently offering accredited cannabis curriculum:
- Colorado State University
- CU Anschutz – School of Pharmacy
- Cloverleaf University
- University of Vermont
- Northern Michigan University
- Stockton University
- University of Maryland School of Pharmacy