Starting this fall, students at the Colorado State University’s Pueblo campus will have the option to major in cannabis class. Last week, Colorado officials approved the new bachelor’s of science degree program—Cannabis Biology and Chemistry. Where cannabis and college have gone together in the past, this program, like others, is forging a whole new relationship.
Extracurricular Activities Become Intracurricular Studies
The Colorado State University branch has become a national leader when it comes to cannabis. Their Institute of Cannabis Research opened in June of 2016 as the United States’ first multidisciplinary research center to study the contribution of cannabis in society, medicine, and science.
CSU-Pueblo officials recognize “a rapidly changing national scene regarding the cannabis plant” and are pro-actively embracing changing attitudes towards the plant. The bulk of the program will be made up of chemistry and biology classes, with some additional classes in physics and math.
Officials recognize a need for experts in the hemp and cannabis industries, but also hope to prepare students for fields in which cannabis could be involved—food science, environmental science, agriculture, and biochemistry. The university expects significant demand for the program and anticipates the enrolment of around 60 students within four years.
Similar Programs Have Been Budding Around North America
Colorado may have been one of the first two states to legalize marijuana, but that doesn’t mean that the state is necessarily alone in its scholarly embrace of cannabis. The past few years have welcomed more than 300 students to Northern Michigan University’s Medicinal Plant Chemistry Program—aptly shortened to CH420 in the school’s handbook. A similar program was launched at North Dakota’s Minot State University in 2019.
The University of Maryland offers a master’s program in medical cannabis science and therapeutics. At Harvard, Vanderbilt, the University of Denver, University of Connecticut, and the Ohio State University, courses like ‘cannabis studies,’ ‘cannabis horticulture,’ and ‘marijuana policy and law’ can also be found. In Canada, there are more than 11 colleges and universities that offer programs centered around weed.
Safety is one of the most reported drivers of courses like these. In Colorado, university officials recognize that with an increase in the cannabis industry, comes issues of effectiveness and safety for consumers. With marijuana vaping becoming more popular, there’s a motivation to produce trained scientists who can be at the forefront of regulation and oversight.
But there are also opportunities for entrepreneurship in the back of cannabis students’ minds. With opportunities for business involving recreational marijuana, medicinal marijuana, food, and industrial hemp—and with novel ones popping up every day—prospective program students see a bright future when it comes to cannabis. In fact, Karson Humiston, from one of the nation’s leading employment agencies, Vangst, sees a lot of industry potential as, “more jobs are being created in this space than in any other space in North America.”
If we can take away anything from recent news, it’s that this is most likely just the beginning of collegiate cannabis class. With the use and legalization of cannabis on the uptick, we’re likely to see more and more investment in its academic knowledge and research. Canada has recently welcomed its first “Cannabis PhD.” We’re likely to see many more join his ranks soon.