Biochemist Jahan Marcu has found “a very rewarding career” working to assure the safety of medicines.

“It is really touching to see patients using our products and leaving opioids behind,” says Adam Kavalier, a phytochemist who works in the same industry.

The fast-growing field where these scientists work provides not only these satisfactions, but also, reportedly, offers expanding career opportunities, good pay, and scientific challenges so plentiful and significant that one feels “you’re literally on Darwin’s ship, the Beagle,” Marcu says.

The industry may surprise you: It’s medical marijuana or, as the scientists prefer to call it, medicinal cannabis. It’s legal in 29 states and the District of Columbia, with 17 more permitting therapeutic use of certain cannabis compounds. On 1 January, California became the eighth state to legalize marijuana for adult recreational use, which many believe ultimately has a much larger business potential—despite recent headlines about its complicated legal status.

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