US (MO): Colleges expand cannabis programs to prepare students for ‘green jobs’

Karina Hernandez’s ideal work environment is surrounded by plants, with her hands in the dirt. Although she already has a biology degree, she recently decided to go back to school to take classes in horticulture at St. Louis Community College at Meramec, the state’s largest horticulture program.

And she was surprised to see courses on hemp and cannabis cultivation on the list. On the first day of her introduction to cannabis course this semester, she and her fellow classmates shared why they wanted to take the class. “It’s a growing industry, so it’s cool to be at the forefront,” Hernandez said. “As long as I’m not sitting at a desk — and I feel like that’s a lot of people here.” Many of her classmates agreed the cannabis market just might be their ticket to a career working in plant science.

Student interest is likely why the number of cannabis certificate programs at colleges has rapidly expanded in Missouri. A majority of the programs are online courses, but some — including the one at Meramec — are providing hands-on instruction using hemp plants. Now, for the first time, beginning this semester, Missouri students can get a bachelor’s degree in cannabis and natural medicine at Truman State University in Kirksville.

“Everybody that we’ve talked to who’s currently in the industry is all really excited about the potential of having students who are coming out with an undergraduate degree,” said Tim Walston, Truman’s dean of science and mathematics, “and that they could take into their workforce right away.” Cannabis sales in Missouri have been averaging about $120 million a month since March. That means the Missouri industry will easily surpass $1 billion in its first year of recreational cannabis sales. A booming industry means more jobs.


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