Right now the cannabis industry is still years behind other industries. That can be bad in some ways (like with contradictory regulations), but it’s good in others. For instance, entry level positions have been open to those who want to work for it, regardless of education.

Up until now, the cannabis industry has been mostly indifferent to credentials. The people and companies who have staked a claim in the market and kept it have been those with the best product and marketing strategies. While most other businesses require college degrees and years of experience, many of the people who’ve had success so far in weed are self-taught, or they invested their money in other people who are self-taught.

But all of that may be about to change. Northern Michigan University is about to unveil the nation’s first university degree in marijuana. Several colleges and other institutions have offered certificates in cannabis, including the Humboldt Cannabis College and Oaksterdam University in California. And major universities including the University of Denver and Harvard have offered classes on cannabis policy.

Other universities are likely to follow suit. NMU’s new degree offering comes amidst a booming medical marijuana market in Michigan. It’s not unlikely that universities in states with legal recreational marijuana will begin offering similar degrees in the near future, particularly in hubs of higher education such as the Bay Area of California and Los Angeles.

“Many of the states are legalizing different substances and they’re really looking for quality people to do the chemistry and the science,” NMU trustee James Haveman told the Detroit Free Press. “And it’s the university’s responsibility to produce those kinds of students for those kinds of jobs.”

But will new people entering the industry with college degrees trump people with real hands-on experience, especially as corporations and more traditional business structures take over the industry?

The new program at NMU will include classes on “organic chemistry, biochemistry, soils, biology, gas and liquid chromatography, biostatistics, genetics, accounting, financial management and perspectives on society,” according to the Detroit Free Press.

The only thing it won’t include is weed.

“No one is growing marijuana. No one is violating and state or federal laws,” said NMU board member Steve Mitchell. Instead they’ll be growing and processing other plants.

“I work with plants right now that could be considered medicinal plants,” said associate chemistry professor Brandon Canfield. “We look to other plants that have been traditionally recognized with medicinal value, but are not illegal to grow.”

Photo via Flickr user Hernán Piñera