As the marijuana industry in the state continues to grow — a medical marijuana expansion is underway and lawmakers are working for full legalization — the south Jersey institution has launched a program to train students interested in working in that field.
WNYC first reported the program.
“This is a growing industry and we want to prepare our students from a variety of academic viewpoints,” Ekaterina Sedia, a biology professor and the program coordinator for cannabis studies, said in a statement.
“We will not be telling students what is the right thing to do,” Sedia said. “We will be providing a context and information that they can use to make their own decisions. Offering a program is not an endorsement.”
As lawmakers are set to resume the marijuana debate, more than 30 towns have already taken a stance against the marijuana industry.
Stockton Spokeswoman Diane D’Amico said the 25 students participating in the program will take a cannabis law course, followed by a class on medical marijuana in New Jersey in the spring.
Once students complete a few classes in the program, they’ll be able to work an internship at various marijuana-related organizations in the state, including the possibility of working at marijuana cultivation facilities in the state.
While Stockton is thought to be the first school in the state with a minor in marijuana, other institutions have offered students experience in the medical marijuana industry.
Rutgers has a course that allows students to earn credit through work at the Garden State Dispensary in Woodbridge. Aaron Epstein, the general manager of the facility, said the Rutgers students help throughout the cultivation process and that the partnership with Rutgers is a mutually beneficial.
Stockton joins a growing number of universities across the country that have programs dedicated to marijuana, including the University of Vermont and Northern Michigan University.
Whether students will be training to join a medical marijuana industry in New Jersey or a recreational one depends on state lawmakers.
Six medical marijuana currently operate in the state, though Gov. Phil Murphy has ordered a doubling of the industry. Those additional facilities are expected to be up and running by next spring.
But legislators are also weighing full legalization and leaders say they plan to introduce a recreational marijuana bill, plus one for medical marijuana expansion.
Regardless of how marijuana legislation plays out in Trenton, the Stockton students studying marijuana are preparing themselves for a growing industry. Thirty states now have a medical marijuana program and nine states, plus Washington, D.C., have legalized cannabis for recreational use.
Sedia said that in addition to preparing students for work in the cannabis industry, she sees some continuing on to law school, medical school or to work in law enforcement.
“It will also be helpful for people in other fields to understand the impact of marijuana,” she said.