Cannabis use has become more legitimate over the past several decades. In addition to multiple states legalizing marijuana for recreational or medical use, another chemical the plant produces, CBD, is also showing promise for medical use. CBD does not produce a “high” in the users.
What’s more, industrial hemp, produced by a cousin of the same plant that produces the marijuana that users partake of to get high, is also gaining legitimacy, and has been legalized in several states.
To that end, Colorado State University-Pueblo has received approval to offer a degree program in cannabis, with students being able to begin coursework on the subject this fall.
David Lehmpuhl, the dean of Colorado State University-Pueblo’s College of Science and Mathematics, promised a rigorous class schedule that will take into account a variety of academic disciplines of the plant and its many uses, including biology and chemistry.
“It’s a rigorous degree geared toward the increasing demand coming about because of the cannabis industry… What we’re about will be the science and training students to look at that science,” he said.
For a student who undertakes the degree program, their course load will be not unlike that of a student with a double-major in biology and chemistry.
Specifically, students who join the program will study it through two different disciplines: natural products and analytical chemistry.
The natural products side of the program will focus on, among other things, the role of genetics in the production of cannabis derivatives.
“A lot of the products that people are selling from the cannabis plant, if they can be genetically produced, become more profitable,” Lehmpuhl said.
The analytical chemistry side of the program will involve coursework in laboratory settings. Students will be working with actual cannabis plants in these labs, but will not actually be in contact with THC. Rather, they’ll be using industrial hemp, which the university has a permit to grow.
Lehmpuhl noted that the fact that marijuana has been legalized, in one form or another, in dozens of states, while remaining illegal as a matter of federal law, has informed the need for an academic approach to cannabis.
“One of the things that motivated us to develop this program was this industry is sort of developed without oversight and regulation,” he said.