Earlier this year, Colorado State University announced they would offer a bachelor's of science degree in cannabis, biology and chemistry. As the dean, David Lehmpuhl, was quick to point out, “It's a rigorous degree geared toward the increasing demand coming about because of the cannabis industry.”
The university has made it clear that there are two paths a student can follow in order to earn this degree. One is centered on the genetics and biology of cannabis, while the other is focused on the chemistry of cannabis. This is a fascinating development in part because of the stranglehold that the United States’ Drug Enforcement Agency has put on researching cannabis, but also because it represents incredible growth for cannabis retailers and is a sign of the times.
As with anything, attaching academia to cannabis is an excellent strategy in legitimizing and demystifying cannabis to the public and thus seeing more users. Even more than that, there are up-and-coming young people who have grown up in a vastly different landscape of cannabis and represent fresh blood in a market that’s still breaking out of the stigma and underground attitudes of its past. Just this past month, New Jersey regulators have begun to talk about decriminalizing marijuana in that state, and while that’s not the direct result of Colorado State’s new degree, it represents a confluence of interest in legitimacy by lawmakers that we’re also seeing bleed into academics, and thus trickling down to the everyday population as well.
While this degree at Colorado State isn’t focused on the business aspects of cannabis like it is the pharmacological, it still can have a direct impact on cannabis retailers, and in particular, the medical marijuana side of the industry. The aforementioned moratorium on cannabis research imposed by the DEA has long kept researchers from studying even the most basic effects of cannabis. The old stoner myth of holding smoke in for long as possible to get the full effect is just that, a myth. Before the more recent research to disprove that idea though, cannabis users were flying blind and forced to use their own experiences as gospel.
Still, researchers have had to get special permission from the DEA to work with cannabis. This naturally stifled findings, assuming the DEA even allowed specific research to go on, but something like a degree in cannabis could radically alter that dynamic. As more states legalize and more people are exposed to cannabis, more people will want to follow a career path defined by it, where they can also impact the future of cannabis. Long gone are the days of a solitary neighbor creating “franken-plants” by mixing strains and incoming are the days of more common, more scientifically sound research by even more people.
As one can imagine, this specific degree will have a minor effect on the cannabis world, but what it represents is more important. The public interest is there, even extending to the upper echelons of the education system. As much as the health benefits of cannabis are touted by researchers and experts, there’s still work to be done on researching long-term side effects of heavy use, and similar questions that users have been asking for decades..
With more people conducting this research, it fast-tracks finding helpful truths concerning cannabis and bringing more people into the fold. A previously hesitant person may be swayed when they see someone on television talking about their cannabis research, only to see this person actually has a Bachelor of Science in Cannabis. That “stamp of approval” is lent to the plant itself as well as the industry, and that benefit is incalculable. Pushing for programs like this and widening the scope of research brings in customers and represents exponential growth as more and more researchers confirm what many users have known for years.