Colorado State University and West Illinois University are the latest colleges to capitalize on the growing demand for cannabis courses.

The Pueblo campus at CSU will offer a bachelor of science degree in cannabis starting this fall. Students can choose to focus either on the biology or the chemistry of cannabis.

“It’s a rigorous degree geared toward the increasing demand coming about because of the cannabis industry,” said David Lehmpuhl, dean of CSU-Pueblo’s College of Science and Mathematics.

He added that the school is neither pro-cannabis nor anti-cannabis, but it appreciates that hemp and marijuana are now at the forefront of many economic sectors. Colorado was one of the first two states to legalize recreational marijuana use, and it has a flourishing industry.

Students will be able to work in a lab setting at CSU, but not with products containing high levels of THC. The lab is licensed to grow industrial hemp and students could work with CBD.

Lempuhl said the university was partly motivated by the vaping crisis that hit North America last year when deciding to launch the course. Sixty people died and thousands more were injured, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention attributed the outbreak to illicit dealers adding vitamin E acetate to vape cartridges as a thickening agent.

There is not enough oversight and regulation in the nascent cannabis industry, according to Lempuhl, and he said there is a clear need for more trained scientists in that sector.

Illinois could also become a major player in the cannabis industry after legal adult-use sales began last month. Western Illinois University has announced a Cannabis Production minor, which will also debut this fall, offering students the opportunity to learn about anatomy, physiology, breeding, propagation methods, management techniques, post-harvest processing, commercial production, crop rotations and product applications.

Shelby Henning, horticulture professor in the School of Agriculture, will lead the course. The university said it is the perfect complement to its comprehensive agriculture degree program.

Last year, The University of the Sciences in Philadelphia launched a Masters of Business Administration course specifically designed for students who want to join the cannabis industry. Israeli university Max Stern Yezreel Valley College, located near Nazareth in Galilee, is also among the higher education institutions targeting budding cannabis experts by launching a degree in medical marijuana.

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