Medicinal Plant Chemistry degrees draws big numbers for NMU

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MARQUETTE — Students from across the country traveled to the Upper Peninsula to study the science and business of the fastest growing industry in the U.S. job market….cannabis. Northern Michigan University was the first U.S. college to offer a four year ‘Medicinal Plant Chemistry’ degree because of this enrollment numbers for the Chemistry program nearly doubled.

In 2016, two NMU professors created what is now the Medicinal Plant Chemistry degree program. In fall of 2017, 12 students entered the program and by the fall of the next academic year 180 students had declared Medicinal Plant Chemistry their major. With numbers continuing to grow, students from 48 of the 50 states are represented in the program.

“When we first proposed it we weren’t sure how far it was going to go, if anyone outside the department would ever hear about it, if anyone outside the university would ever hear about it. People saw the numbers and the need and were convinced,” says Brandon Canfield, Associate Professor of Chemistry at NMU, “I think it says a lot about our social norms changing, in general, that the topic itself wasn’t considered all that taboo.”

But this degree is not an easy ticket to graduation.

“I would put it up there with any of our other chemistry degree programs. Everyone’s taking the same organic chemistry, everyone’s taking the same biochemistry. These are not easy courses,” continues Canfield.

Rishi Prasadh moved from Texas to the U.P. in order to get his Medicinal Plant Chemistry degree at NMU.

“I’m learning a lot. I’m having a good time,” says Prasadh.

He’s hoping more scientists will get involved in the cannabis industry.

“I think the industry definitely needs, and there’s not enough people trained in chemistry, biology, all these different disciplines that are needed for the burgeoning cannabis industry,” adds Prasadh.

Due to its popularity, NMU is planning to expand space and faculty for the program. More information on the degree program can be found here.

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