Marquette, Michigan, USA: Northern Michigan University in Marquette is offering a four-year degree addressing the science and business behind growing marijuana (cannabis, ganja, indian hemp, weed). Northern Michigan University began its degree pogram in Marijuana this semester, with about a dozen students in the first class. The medical plant chemistry program combines chemistry, biology, botany, horticulture, marketing and finance.
“When they hear what my major is, there are a lot of people who say, ’Wow, cool dude. You’re going to get a degree growing marijuana,’” said Alex Roth, a sophomore in the program. “But it’s not an easy degree at all.”
Brandon Canfield, an associate chemistry professor at Northern Michigan, said students don’t grow marijuana plants in the program, but instead look to other plants that are traditionally recognized with medicinal value but aren’t illegal to grow. Students learn how to measure and extract the compounds in the plants that can be used for medicinal purposes, then transfer that knowledge to marijuana, which has been used to treat a variety of illnesses, including chronic pain, nausea, seizures and glaucoma.
Canfield said he got the idea while attending the American Chemical Society’s annual meeting in San Diego last year.
“It was my off day and I saw there was a cannabis chemistry group that was putting on a whole series of talks,” he said. “I heard all about the need for analytical chemists and all sorts of interesting talks. That was the initial spark.”
University officials say the program fills a need because 30 states have legalized medical marijuana, including eight states where marijuana is also legal for recreational use.
“Many of the states are legalizing different substances and they’re really looking for quality people to do the chemistry and the science,” said university trustee James Haveman. “And it’s the university’s responsibility to produce those kinds of students for those kinds of jobs.”
Northern Michigan’s marijuana degree is an unusual program. Other universities offer classes on marijuana policy and law. And places such as Oaksterdam University, Cannabis College, and Humboldt Cannabis College, all in California; and THC University, the Grow School and Clover Leaf University in Denver offer certificates in a variety of disciplines.
In Michigan, voters in 2008 approved the use of marijuana to treat certain illnesses, but the law has confused many and has led to significant legal disputes, including over how to obtain and store the drug. The state is developing a new regulatory system aimed at increasing oversight and imposing new taxes on the industry. Applications for licenses will be available on Dec. 15.
While 8 states and the District of Columbia have legalized recreational marijuana and 30 states allow medical marijuana, it still remains illegal in the eyes of the federal government.
Some in Congress, have taken steps toward easing the federal government’s stance on medical marijuana. In June, Sens. Rand Paul (R-Kentucky), Cory Booker (D-New Jersey) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-New York) introduced a bill that would end the federal prohibition of medical marijuana and take steps to improve research.
Senator Cory Booker (D-New Jersey) , in August, also introduced a bill (The Marijuana Justice Act) that would not only legalize marijuana, but expunge federal marijuana convictions and penalize states with marijuana laws that disproportionately effect low-come people and people of color.
Smoking marijuana (weed, indian hemp, cannabis) is legal to some extent in 30 states, though the majority only allow consumption for medicinal purposes. Recreational use is allowed in Washington state, Oregon, Nevada, California, Colorado, Alaska, Maine, Massachusetts, and Washington D.C.
Canada introduced legislation in April, setting up plans to legalize marijuana for recreational use by July 2018.
ALSO, Oxford University in the UK has launched a £10m research programme into the effects of medical marijuana, following calls for its legalisation. The programme will examine the role of cannabis medicines in treating pain, cancer and inflammatory diseases.
It follows calls from some MPs for legalisation of cannabis on medical grounds, with 58 per cent backing such calls last year.
In recent years, studies have increasingly supported the medical value of cannabis for treating conditions such as multiple sclerosis, epilepsy and arthritis, and for dealing with nerve pain.
The new Oxford University programme is a partnership between Oxford University and Kingsley Capital Partners, who are investing £10m an effort to creat a global centre of excellence in cannabinoid research.
Ahmed Ahmed, Professor of Gynaecological Oncology at Oxford, said studies had started to produce exciting biological discoveries, which could result in new treatments for a host of different diseases.
“This field holds great promise for developing novel therapeutic opportunities for cancer patients,” he said.
Currently neither the Conservative nor Labour Party officially supports legalising cannabis for medical use. Both the Green Party and Liberal Democrats have called for legalisation for medical use for some time.
Sativex, a prescription-only drug used by patients suffering from Multiple Sclerosis, is the only licensed cannabis-based product in the UK and is given to help ease muscle spasms. However it is nonpsychoactive and doesn’t cause a high.