New cannabis marketing course puts students on forefront of burgeoning industry

Contact: Angela DeYoung

KALAMAZOO, Mich.—It’s no secret recreational cannabis sales in Michigan are continuing to climb. With that growth, skilled marketers in the industry are now in high demand, and Western Michigan University students will soon be prepared to meet the need.

The Haworth College of Business is offering a new cannabis marketing course starting in spring 2023. Taught by Dr. Russell Zwanka, director of the food marketing program and associate professor of marketing, the class will focus on several areas of interest, including the history of cannabis, ethical and responsible marketing, consumer traits, retail channels and more.

Dr. Russell Zwanka sits in front of a computer.

Dr. Russell Zwanka will teach the new cannabis marketing course.

Arguably, cannabis is one of the fastest expanding consumer goods segments in the industry. According to reports from, over $1.1 billion in cannabis sales were reported in 2021, which have generated over $250 million in tax revenue for the state, and similar trends are unfolding in other states. A February report from Leafly found Michigan has the third-most cannabis-related jobs in the country.

“The industry growth and accelerated national legalization are creating new jobs in a robust fashion,” says Dr. Kelley O’Reilly, chair of the Department of Marketing. “In cannabis marketing, it is essential to have complete knowledge of the supply chain, cultivation, cannabinoids, history, trends in consumer usage, health benefits, how food and cannabis cultures intersect, and the importance to state tax revenue. This knowledge will help differentiate our students from those from other universities. We expect cannabis marketing to help us continue to solidify our place in the industry for retailer and producer collaboration and research."

The new course is designed to equip students with the necessary tools and background to successfully enter the burgeoning cannabis industry. The push to legalize recreational marijuana, coupled with the increased popularity of other cannabis products such as Cannabidiol (CBD), has created a need for a greater understanding of the products and marketing strategy. Undergraduate and graduate students will be able to register for the course, which will be offered in a HyFlex format, with options for in person or online attendance, one night per week.

Zwanka has completed extensive research in the cannabis market, with work that includes three books on Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and CBD, three published academic papers, two student-led research projects and additional ongoing research as the business continues to develop.

This is a rising business that is changing on a daily basis,” says Zwanka. “It's an exciting place for consumer goods and retailing where we can show thought leadership and training. This is extremely important to food marketing, as well as supply chain management and sales and business marketing majors, in addition to MBA students in these fields.”

WMU Haworth’s food and consumer package goods marketing program is one of the top food marketing programs in the country. "As part of our top-ranked food marketing program, we want to ensure our students are well-prepared for trends in the industry,” says Zwanka. “Those trends also impact the necessary skill sets for productive and engaging careers. The food marketing program is able to maintain a high job placement rate due to constantly evolving and updating the curriculum so it is highly relevant.”

About WMU’s food and consumer package goods marketing program

The food and consumer package goods marketing major provides experiential learning opportunities such as study abroad, internships, tours of industry, business networking, and the annual Food Marketing and Supply Chain Conference. More than 80 leading businesses comprise the WMU Food Industry Advisory Board, providing generous support for scholarships, classroom projects, cases and presentations, as well as numerous employment opportunities.

Learn more about WMU Haworth's food and consumer package goods marketing program.

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