• Students at Northern Michigan University can now major in medicinal plant chemistry.

• The school created the program in response to growing demand for trained analytical chemists in the marijuana industry.

• Students will not smoke marijuana as part of their coursework.

A small college in the Midwest has launched a program in of its chemistry department that gives new meaning to the phrase “higher education.”

Northern Michigan University is offering a medicinal plant chemistry program – effectively, a major in marijuana – that will prepare students for careers in the burgeoning marijuana industry. It’s the first degree of its kind at a four-year undergraduate college, CBS Detroit reports.

The school hopes to become a major pipeline for the legal marijuana business, which employs between 165,000 and 230,000 Americans - about as many people as there are dental hygenists working in the US.

"The need for this is so great. You go to some of these cannabis industry conferences and everyone is talking about how they need labs, they need labs," Brandon Cangield, an associate chemistry professor at NMU, told CBS Detroit. "Or the bigger operations are trying to set up their own labs in house and they need trained analysts. And the skill set required to perform these analysis is perfectly matched with an undergraduate level education."

northern michigan university marijuana degree program

Foto: A description of the medicinal plant chemistry program at Northern Michigan University appears on the school's website. source Northern Michigan University screenshot

Students will take classes in chemistry, plant biology, and business entrepreneurship, and complete a capstone research project involving "experimental horticulture" and "instrumental analysis of natural products," according to the Northern Michigan University website.

There won't be much "hands on" experience, however. Cangield told CBS Detroit the school will not grow marijuana, but that could change if laws around cultivation become more flexible.

So far, 12 students have enrolled in the program at NMU. The head of the school's chemistry department told WXYZ ABC 7 he expects that number to double or triple by next fall semester.

Michigan voted to legalize medical marijuana use in 2008. There are over 218,000 residents holding medical marijuana cards in the state, which is up 76% since 2012.