What will the first weed degree program in the U.S. look like?

Check out the curriculum for the nation's first cannabis-focused bachelor's program.

cannabis plants
Photo Credit: Matthew Brodeur / Unsplash
  • Colorado State University-Pueblo will offer the first undergraduate weed degree in the U.S.
  • The program will include intensive coursework focused on chemistry and advanced biology.
  • Cannabis has become one of the fastest-growing job markets.

Weed can now get you a degree. A public university in southern Colorado has announced that it will offer the United State's first cannabis-focused major.

The new Cannabis Biology and Chemistry Program was created after students at Colorado State University-Pueblo expressed intense interest in the field. The "rigorous" science degree will include coursework focused on chemistry and advanced biology according to David Lehmpuhl, dean of CSU-Pueblo's College of Science and Mathematics. In other words, it isn't going to be a chill party degree. Dean Lehmpuhl emphasizes that students in the CBC program won't be working with anything that has a high amount of THC, the main psychoactive compound in weed.

The Colorado Commission on Higher Education passed the university's request for a cannabis-related degree earlier this month. Lehmpuhl recently told WBUR that the response has been "overwhelming."

"I've been fielding inquiries almost nonstop since the announcement came out," he said. "There's definitely a demand."

A budding industry

The ban on weed, which was outlawed in the 1930s, has only recently started to lift. Though it's still federally illegal, cannabis is now recreationally legal in 11 states plus Washington, D.C. It's also legal for medical usage in 33 states. As a result, cannabis has become one of the fastest-growing job markets. Forbes estimates that the industry is responsible for the employment of around 300,000 full-time workers.

"We kind of looked at the industry, and the sector as a whole, and what was needed for students to get jobs," said Lehmpuhl to Quartz. "We have a lot of businesses in the area that are clamoring for workers." In fact, CSU-Pueblo is also home to the state-funded Institute for Cannabis Research.

The new degree is intended to prepare students for opportunities to work in chemistry, biology, or natural products labs. That could mean jobs ranging from CBD extraction to analyzing soil chemistry.

Though perceptions of marijuana and hemp have evolved over the last decade, the cannabis plant is still shrouded in cultural and political controversy. CSU-Pueblo's bachelor's program is not intended to be political or an attempt to legitimize cannabis consumption. It's rigidly focused on the scientific aspects of the weed plant. WBUR reports that Lehmpuhl wants the students to study the plant from an unbiased, scientific viewpoint that is neither pro- or anti-weed usage. He said that studying cannabis in relation to the human body, the industrial world, and the environment will bring new insights into the field, potentially revealing new "creative applications of the cannabis plant."

What the CBC program looks like

There's a cluster of U.S. schools that offer similar courses, certificates, and master's degrees in cannabis-centric studies for students looking to pursue the up-and-coming industry. Northern Michigan University, for instance, offers a degree in Medicinal Plant Chemistry with a capstone course named CH420 (haha). What's unique about CSU-Pueblo is that it is the first undergraduate program in the country to put the word cannabis in its name, which has resulted in media attention and a flood of inquiries from prospective students.

The major will offer two tracks students can choose from: one is "natural products," which places more emphasis on biological aspects of weed, while the "analytical" track focuses on chemistry. The program overview states that through the degree, "students will understand cannabis physiology and growth, the pharmaceutical implications, and the practical applications for the industry."

The CBC program will officially start in the fall semester of 2020 with courses that include Cannabis Physiology and Growth, Medicinal Chemistry and Pharmacology, Medicinal Plant Biochemistry, and Natural Products Extraction and Analysis. You can check out the program's full curriculum here.

How New York's largest hospital system is predicting COVID-19 spikes

Northwell Health is using insights from website traffic to forecast COVID-19 hospitalizations two weeks in the future.

Credit: Getty Images
Sponsored by Northwell Health
  • The machine-learning algorithm works by analyzing the online behavior of visitors to the Northwell Health website and comparing that data to future COVID-19 hospitalizations.
  • The tool, which uses anonymized data, has so far predicted hospitalizations with an accuracy rate of 80 percent.
  • Machine-learning tools are helping health-care professionals worldwide better constrain and treat COVID-19.
Keep reading Show less

Listen: Scientists re-create voice of 3,000-year-old Egyptian mummy

Scientists used CT scanning and 3D-printing technology to re-create the voice of Nesyamun, an ancient Egyptian priest.

Surprising Science
  • Scientists printed a 3D replica of the vocal tract of Nesyamun, an Egyptian priest whose mummified corpse has been on display in the UK for two centuries.
  • With the help of an electronic device, the reproduced voice is able to "speak" a vowel noise.
  • The team behind the "Voices of the Past" project suggest reproducing ancient voices could make museum experiences more dynamic.
Keep reading Show less

Put on a happy face? “Deep acting” associated with improved work life

New research suggests you can't fake your emotional state to improve your work life — you have to feel it.

Credit: Columbia Pictures
Personal Growth
  • Deep acting is the work strategy of regulating your emotions to match a desired state.
  • New research suggests that deep acting reduces fatigue, improves trust, and advances goal progress over other regulation strategies.
  • Further research suggests learning to attune our emotions for deep acting is a beneficial work-life strategy.
  • Keep reading Show less

    World's oldest work of art found in a hidden Indonesian valley

    Archaeologists discover a cave painting of a wild pig that is now the world's oldest dated work of representational art.

    Pig painting at Leang Tedongnge in Indonesia, made at 45,500 years ago.

    Credit: Maxime Aubert
    Surprising Science
    • Archaeologists find a cave painting of a wild pig that is at least 45,500 years old.
    • The painting is the earliest known work of representational art.
    • The discovery was made in a remote valley on the Indonesian island of Sulawesi.
    Keep reading Show less
    Mind & Brain

    What can Avicenna teach us about the mind-body problem?

    The Persian polymath and philosopher of the Islamic Golden Age teaches us about self-awareness.

    Scroll down to load more…