BANGOR, Maine — As the marijuana industry grows in Maine, some colleges and universities are working to prepare students to enter that workforce.
Beal University is offering online associate and bachelor's degree programs for students to specialize in cannabis and medicinal plant sciences.
The two associate degree programs are in cannabis business administration and cannabis laboratory sciences. Each of those programs is 20 months long.
The bachelor's degree is in medicinal plant sciences. That program is a 34-month course load.
Stephen Villett, chief operating officer for Beal University, said there are many opportunities for students to pursue in this industry.
"They can work in a dispensary; they can work in a grow house... so it only made sense. We're all about putting students into programs that they can get jobs from, so it just made sense to create these programs and give another opportunity for students to get employment," Villett said.
Industry proponents from CBD Oracle report that average salaries in the cannabis industry for degree-qualified graduates range from $40,000-$60,000 per year.
Robin Tardiff, Beal University's director of career services, said these opportunities don't end at entry-level positions.
"It's such a growing industry that they have the opportunity to come in, maybe start at that entry-level floor, but then work their way up into laboratories and sciences," Tardiff said.
Beal University is not alone in its shift to cannabis education. The University of Maine also offers an introductory course to cannabis cultivation and science. UMaine Cooperative Extension professor John Jemison said the course he teaches is popular among students.
"I either fill it or come right close to it both times I've taught it ... I think there is going to be interest across the country to make this go, particularly as it does get legalized further," Jemison said.
According to the Maine Office of Marijuana Policy, Maine's recreational cannabis industry brought in nearly $82 million in sales last year, which in turn brings in more tax dollars for the state.
"There's not a lot of schools doing these programs, so we're hoping to attract not only people within Maine but other states ... New Hampshire, Massachusetts, wherever else," Villett said.
The first sessions of this new program begin on May 2. Applications are still being accepted at this time. For more information, click here.