LSSU announces cannabis chemistry major

Published: Jan. 25, 2019 at 12:14 PM EST
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Lake Superior State University says it is launching the country’s first degree program focused squarely on the chemistry of cannabis.

The university in Sault Ste. Marie announced Friday that a bachelor’s degree with a major in cannabis chemistry will be offered beginning in fall 2019, along with an associate’s degree program in cannabis science. Students can opt in for an American Chemical Society (ACS)-endorsed degree.

Northern Michigan University started a medicinal plant chemistry program in the fall 2017 semester. While that program is commonly linked to marijuana, NMU says the program prepares students for careers in herbal supplements, fermentation science, food chemistry and environmental analysis.

Medical marijuana was legalized in Michigan in 2008, and recreational marijuana was legalized in 2018. Michigan is the only state in the Midwest to legalize recreational marijuana.

LSSU says it aims to be a premier training center for the next generation of quantitative chemists for the cannabis industry, ready to start work as soon as they graduate. More than 500,000 jobs will be created in the cannabis industry by 2022, outpacing technology and healthcare.

“LSSU’s core mission is to equip graduates with knowledge and practical skills for meaningful employment so that they can enhance not only the quality of life in Michigan, but throughout North America as well,” says LSSU President Dr. Rodney Hanley, in a statement. “Our cannabis chemistry graduates will lead the cannabis agricultural and pharmaceutical sectors by developing standards for production, regulation, and safety, just as chemists develop and qualify processes and products that form the backbone of any modern society.”

LSSU says its cannabis chemistry degree goes beyond just meeting an expanding market demand in cannabis. The program incorporates a solid foundation in organic chemistry, instrumental analysis, and biochemistry. Graduates will gain skills – often to develop new techniques – that set benchmarks for cannabis production, and quality control, including safety and testing.

“Laboratory chemists develop and implement techniques using highly sensitive tests to detect and measure specific chemical compounds that are critical to law enforcement, regulatory affairs, and to ensure the public's health and safety,” says Barbara Keller, professor and past chair of the School of Science and Medicine.

LSSU’s cannabis chemistry degree devotes 14 credits of specialized cannabis coursework, starting in the first year, on top of all the other coursework a conventional analytical chemistry degree provides. At the degree’s core are 50 credits of chemistry content, along with courses in fundamental biology and horticulture. The degree also offers 24 free electives that lets students focus on other areas such as business, marketing, and criminal justice.

LSSU is also in the early stages of developing a cannabis emphasis for a bachelor’s and associate degree in business administration. Aside from a standard business core, the degrees will include cannabis-specific coursework in economics, law and policy, entrepreneurship, business policy, with attention to cultivation and dispensary operations. Details will be announced later in the spring.

"The cannabis industry is expected to experience tremendous growth in the near future," says LSSU Provost Lynn Gillette. "Our Cannabis Business degree will prepare our graduates for jobs in this emerging industry."

These cannabis initiatives join an array of other Lake Superior State University programs unique to North America, if not the world. A new Center for Freshwater Research and Education opens in 2021. The Center will be a major research and teaching resource in environmental science, aquatic wildlife biology, and fisheries management. LSSU students receive individualized attention leading to outstanding career placement in engineering, robotics, fisheries and wildlife management, nursing and computer science, and more.

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