Northern Michigan University is offering a new medicinal plant chemistry program that will prepare students for the medical marijuana industry - the first of its kind in the United States.
Starting this fall, the coursework for the program will provide a foundation in chemistry and plant biology.
According to the program description, "Increasing legitimacy and legality of medicinal plants nationwide has created great demand for qualified technical personnel and great opportunity for the skilled entrepreneur in the cannabis, herbal extract and natural product industries."
Dr. Mark Paulsen, head of NMU's chemistry department, said the inspiration for the program came from growing interest in medicinal plants as a supplement or alternative to other medical treatments.
"We have met any number of small or medium-sized business people who are making a wide variety of medicinal products," Paulsen said. "In addition, the growing acceptance of medical cannabis and, in some states, completely legal selling of cannabis products means that there is a demand for trained chemists to help ensure product safety and efficacy."
Paulsen said the university is in contact with a group of companies and entrepreneurs who are actively looking for well-trained lab employees.
"Based on the feedback from our presentations at industry conferences, we think our graduates will be in very high demand," he said.
The major will also include business classes with an entrepreneurial focus for students who will create their own careers after graduation.
Paulsen said the first group of students started this semester; a dozen students are currently in the program.
"We expect that the incoming class next fall will double or triple in size," he said.