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The reach of cannabis legalization is touching nearly every aspect of society. Sure, there are obvious effects on the weed industry itself, as it is taken – at least partially – out the shadows and into hi-tech warehouses and lab facilities. But beyond agriculture and dispensaries, legal marijuana is having significant reverberations on health care, law enforcement, banking, politics, entertainment, nightlife, health care, and much, much more. With all that adjustment to daily life, there will be a lot to learn for a workforce that had previously been trained to avoid weed at all costs.

Educating the next generation of cannabis professionals amidst a revolution in marijuana law may sound like a tall task, but as more states continue to embrace legalization, universities and colleges are matching their energy, with dozens of new cannabis-focused courses emerging at campuses across the nation in a slew of different disciplines.

In New York, where legalization took hold just last month and dispensaries are not yet making recreational sales, a number of colleges have already announced new classes tackling the business and science behind the sweet leaf. At the State University of New York (SUNY), 10 different campuses across the state currently offer classes covering marijuana and hemp. That curriculum is only expected to expand as the Empire State builds out its nascent pot industry.

“Our mission is to provide access to students to meet workforce demands,” SUNY Chancellor James Malatras told the New York Post. “This is not a simple matter. This a seismic shift in the law.”

Even at colleges that operate online – either by design or due to COVID-19 health restrictions – the emergence of legal weed has spurred a new focus for students. At Excelsior College, a new graduate program in “Cannabis Control” aims to train the next wave of regulators responsible for crafting marijuana laws and rules.

“We’re in the space to educate people about the cannabis industry,” Scott Dolan, the dean of Excelsior College’s graduate program, told The Post. “Cannabis will be a multi-billion industry in New York by 2025.”

At Syracuse University in upstate New York, three new eight-week summer courses are designed to prepare students for the rigors of the legal weed industry, but unlike the SUNY or Excelsior courses, the Syracuse seminars will not count as credits towards a degree from the university.

“These new market-sensitive certificates represent Syracuse University’s role in supporting growth-oriented economic initiatives in New York State,” Michael Frasciello, dean of University College told University Business. “Online alternative credentials such as these certificates are designed to meet the growing demand for skills-based careers in emerging fields and sustainability-based industries, particularly among adult learners.”

Outside of the Empire State, the Univesity of Connecticut is offering an online course in cannabis cultivation, a Michigan university is offering scholarships in cannabis science, and Olive-Harvey College in Illinois is building an on-campus hemp cultivation greenhouse to assist with hands-on agriculture classes.

“As the cannabis industry continues to expand, industry experts have shared that optimal growing happens in greenhouse environments,” Kimberly Hollingsworth, president of Olive-Harvey College, said in a statement to the Chicago Sun-Times. “Building this greenhouse and offering tactile training will help our students get a leg up in this profitable growth industry.”

In New Mexico, where full-scale legalization was signed into law just last month, a local college program focusing on preparation for work in the cannabis industry has seen participation skyrocket far beyond the institution’s expectations. The program, Northern New Mexico College’s Cannabis Establishment Technician Course, is an eight-week certification course dedicated to vocational training. The course offered its first registration period in March, which served 45 students. As Mateo Frazier, the director running the program, prepared to offer the same course this summer, he was overwhelmed with more than 600 inquires from prospective students.

“The foundational elements of the education program were based on the current, existing medical cannabis industry,” Northern New Mexico College President Rick Bailey told the Santa Fe New Mexican. “The focus was to help the workforce with education training that they needed not just for that industry but also to be of the greatest service to their communities.”

“We haven’t even pushed marketing,” Frazier added. “It’s all been people who are just interested in it.”

Even as institutions of higher learning rush to implement opportunities for their students in the new industry though, many college campuses are still strict about students’ cannabis consumption. Despite legalization and the university system’s double-digit number of cannabis classes, students at all SUNY campuses are forbidden from smoking weed thanks to federal prohibition and could face strong disciplinary action for toking in a dorm or on the quad.

The US is still a few steps from realizing the goal of nationwide legalization and the complete cultural shift that will come with it, but in the meantime, the next generation of industry leaders are already learning the skills they will need to both enact that change and shape what comes next.