Michigan students majoring in marijuana

SAULT STE. MARIE, Mich. (WPBN) – As areas across the country continue to debate the role medical and recreational marijuana will play within their communities, one northern Michigan university is banking on the future of pot.

Lake Superior State University is the first school in the nation to roll out new degrees focusing on cannabis chemistry and other related subjects.

Cannabis chemistry student Allie Anderson said, “I remember people asking me, ‘Oh you’re just getting a degree in pot!’ But really that’s not what it is. It’s the analytical chemistry techniques of it.”

Lake Superior State University is the smallest public university in Michigan and sits at the top of the state on the Canadian border. The school once known for their fisheries and wildlife programs is now making a name for itself in the burgeoning marijuana industry as the first school in the nation to offer a cannabis chemistry program to its undergraduate students.

Dr. Steven Johnson is a professor at LSSU. He explained, “First of all, the market is expanding rapidly. They’re estimating about 20,000 jobs in the state of Michigan alone.”

LSSU assistant professor Benjamin Southwell said it’s “an industry that needs trained scientists that we are well-equipped to do.”

There are thousands of jobs in Michigan and more across the country. New reports suggest that by the end of this year the number of full-time cannabis employees could top 200,000 nationwide. The rapid growth is what led Lake Superior State University to create a cannabis chemistry and cannabis business program for its students.

Cannabis business student Aleister Pether said, “It’s just awesome to be able to go into some sort of innovative field, rather than getting stuck into a field that’s already saturated.”

The university designed its program to be hands-on, to learn cannabis chemistry by actually performing cannabis chemistry.

Dr. Johnson said, “We’re not using surrogate material. We’re going through the proper channels in terms of state licensing and the DEA to make sure they can legally have products here that students are able to train with.”

Cannabis chemistry student Justin Blalock said, “The hands-on use of instruments like these that you’re going to use is far and above what you get at most universities.”

Southwell explained, “Our program is designed to walk the students through testing and the chemistry behind what’s going on in the cannabis plant, so in consumer products, consumer safety, law enforcement and how all those things combine and interact from a chemistry perspective.”

Students are learning skills they’ll need for a future in the business. With legal sales revenue of cannabis in current legal states expected to reach nearly 30 billion by 2025, data suggests that jobs will increase as well. Job growth in the cannabis industry could reach up to 475,000 jobs by 2023.

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