Marijuana is not a novel concept on most college campuses. But at the just-founded MedGrow Cannabis College in Michigan, the particulars of pot are part of the curriculum. 

In reality, the “college” is a business that operates out of a few rooms. Opened last September with new classes starting every month, it is a six-week course on medical marijuana that covers the diverse aspects of the business. 

MedGrow provides agricultural extension classes on the basics of cannabis cultivation, from the growing cycle to nutrient and light requirements. It offers classes led by Todd Alton, a botanist who includes cannabis recipes such as crockpot cannabutter, chocolate canna-ganache and greenies, the cannabis alternative to brownies. Another instructor takes students through the growing and harvest cycles while addressing the curing techniques to increase marijuana’s potency.

The $485 course also serves as a gathering of “serious potheads,” who share stories of their best highs. There is required reading, but only from one text: Marijuana Horticulture: The Indoor/Outdoor Medical Grower’s Bible by Jorge Cervantes.

Nick Tennant is the 24-year-old founder of the college. Tennant envisions the school as the hub of a larger business that will sell supplies to its graduate medical marijuana growers, offering workshops and providing a network for both patient and caregiver referrals. As he told the New York Times, “This state needs jobs, and we think medical marijuana can stimulate the state economy with hundreds of jobs and millions of dollars.”

The Michigan program is representative of what is happening in other states that have recently legalized medical marijuana. Here’s how it works: patients whose doctors certify their medical need for marijuana can grow up to 12 cannabis plants themselves or name a “caregiver” who will grow the plants and sell the product. A caregiver can tend to up to five patients and can be anyone over 21 with no felony drug convictions.

The students at the college are diverse — they are white, black, young, old, employed or unemployed. Growing medical marijuana has been legal in Michigan since 2008, but most of the students do not want to be identified. As one student says, “My wife works for the government, and I told my mother-in-law I was going to a small-business class.”   

Nonetheless, the Department of Community Health has registered about 5,800 patients and 2,400 caregivers. Student Scott Austin is unemployed and 41 years old. He says that he and two partners are planning to go into the medical marijuana business together. Student Sue Maxwell drives each week to attend classes from her home four hours north of Detroit. As Maxwell says, “It’s a big investment, and I want to do it right.”