By, Michele C. Hollow
When Bridget Hill-Zayat tells friends she teaches cannabis law at Stockton University, she’s often met with surprise and enthusiasm. The class is part of a newly launched program at the New Jersey public university where students can minor in cannabis studies.
“Overall, most people react with interest,” Hill-Zayat said. “It’s a popular industry.”
The first class, cannabis law, originally had 25 seats, but it was expanded to 30, and now there’s a waiting list.
“Often, colleges get criticized for not offering students real life skills,” Ekaterina Sedia, associate professor of biology, and coordinator of the newly launched program, told Marijuana.com. “This certainly is going to be a life skill regardless of whether New Jersey stops at medical or goes to the recreational side of it.”
Stockton University, located in Galloway Township in the Pine Barrens region, is the first higher education institution in the Garden State to offer a degree program in cannabis studies.
“It’s an industry that is developing, and certainly there are a lot of possibilities and new jobs,” Sedia said.
Cannabis law is the first of five classes in the minor degree program. The other classes are:
- Introduction of medical marijuana in New Jersey
- Preparation for internship
- An elective related to the cannabis industry
“I’m covering the history of cannabis legislation, federal prohibition, and what’s coming down the tracks,” Hill-Zayat, a practicing attorney, told Marijuana.com. “There’s been a movement on the state level to decriminalize cannabis. We’re taking a wide view by looking at how legalization can benefit and hurt residents in the state.”
Medical cannabis is legal in New Jersey. The class, introduction of medical marijuana in New Jersey, will provide students with an understanding of the state’s cannabis industry and how it is regulated. The internship preparation class will help students decide where to gain industry experience and what protocols are expected. The internships offer opportunities to work in a law office, a retail business, a medical billing department of a doctor’s office, or in information technology and data security.
“We’re partnering with businesses in the field,” Sedia said. “By going the route of offering this as a minor degree, it can be more defined and customized. There’s a lot of flexibility.”
That’s where the electives come in. Students can major in business, law, criminal justice, health, information technology, pre-med, or the economics of botany. An elective in business can cover everything from creating a business plan to running a retail operation.
“There is so much,” Sedia said. “Most people just think we’re handling plants and products, which is not true.”
The timing is excellent. Under the urging of Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy, legislators are currently crafting a bill to legalize recreational cannabis, NJ Advance Media reported.
“This is about providing job opportunities,” Sedia said. “This is an issue that affects, law, business, banking, investment, and the health sciences.”
The majority of the students in the program at Stockton are juniors. “We want them to get their main degree first and then fit the minor in,” Sedia said. “We have two students currently interning.”
Sedia is looking to expand Stockton’s relationship with other businesses, and the school is also considering offering online classes.
Matriculating in Marijuana
While Stockton University is the first to offer a minor degree program in cannabis studies in New Jersey, a handful of schools across the country have rolled out marijuana courses and degree study programs, too. They include:
- Northern Michigan University, a public campus near Lake Superior in Marquette, offers a medicinal plant chemistry program with a focus on the healthful applications of cannabis.
- University of California, Davis, a public campus near Sacramento, is offering a physiology of cannabis course to teach students about the science of the drug and its effect on the body.
- The University of Washington School of Medicine, a public institution in Seattle, is offering a program on medicinal cannabis and chronic pain developed for health professionals.
- University of Denver, a private campus in Colorado’s capital, is offering a marijuana law class.
- Ohio State University’s Moritz College of Law, a public campus in the state capital of Columbus, offers a course called Cannabiz: Exploring the Legalized Cannabis Industry.
- Oaksterdam University, a private trade school founded in 2007 in Oakland, California, bills itself as the first cannabis college and provides training in the cannabis industry.
- Cannabis Training University is an online marijuana school developed to provide comprehensive cannabis education to students across the globe.
- Humboldt Cannabis College, located in northern California’s cannabis-growing Emerald Triangle region, is a trade school specializing in health, horticulture, history, law, and activism all centered on the marijuana industry.
Banner: Stockton University in Galloway Township, New Jersey, is the first campus in the state to offer a cannabis studies degree. For now, students can minor in cannabis studies while majoring in Stockton’s other fields of study. (Photo courtesy of Stockton University)