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A University in Michigan Is Offering a Bachelor Degree for Marijuana Entrepreneurs

Northern Michigan University prepares students for cannabis jobs starting at $70,000 a year.

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There have already been classes offered at colleges around the country relating to marijuana, including the legal issues surrounding legalization and how cannabis is portrayed in the media. Louisiana State University is even growing medical marijuana in a partnership with a private company.

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That’s all interesting, but no school has offered an entire degree program focused on the marijuana industry. Until now.

Northern Michigan University, located in the state's remote Upper Peninsula, has launched a four-year program that allows students to graduate with a degree in Medical Plant Chemistry. The focus is not only on learning the biology and chemistry of marijuana, but also on preparing students for a career in the cannabis industry.

That means graduates can roll out of the program and into the marijuana industry, working in grow houses or research labs where new strains of marijuana are created and tested. It also means a salary of around $70,000 right out of school, the program’s creator told CNBC.

Related: Cannabis Industry Rallies to Overcome Unique Legal Barriers to Recovery From Northern California Fires

Science, business and marketing in one degree.

The program actually focuses on more than just cannabis horticulture. Over four years, students also delve into financial management and marketing in the marijuana industry.

So far, a dozen students have entered the program. One of them, Alex Roth, told the Detroit Free Press the coursework is far more difficult than people might initially think: “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.’ It’s not an easy degree at all,” Roth said.

So why launch the program now? According to the school, legalization of marijuana in states across the country means “a national shift away from the prohibition of cannabis has been signaled.” And that means the time is ripe for people who specialize in studying how marijuana can best be used for medicinal purposes.

Related: Survey: A Quarter of Cancer Patients Use Legal Medical Marijuana.

The medical benefits of marijuana.

Northern Michigan University is located near the shore of Lake Superior in the town of Marquette, between the Ottawa and Hiawatha national forests. It’s far off the beaten path. But the cannabis program is cutting edge.

In creating the program, the school looks to be the first to educate scientists specifically on the creation and testing of marijuana strains that can impact the health of users. The school notes such research is nothing new, as “natural products chemistry” has helped healthcare by identifying and synthesizing compounds based on chemicals produced in nature.

In short, no one knows all the ways medical marijuana can benefit people, and the world needs people trained to figure it out.

The university’s goal is to produce graduates who are both well-versed in the biology and chemistry of marijuana as well as in the entrepreneurial aspects of the marijuana industry.

“The additional focus on entrepreneurship and laboratory accreditation standards means that our graduates will not only be qualified to perform the instrumental analysis in a laboratory, but will also be empowered to build their own testing laboratory, dispensary and growing operation from the ground up,” the school states on its website.

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