A Quick Guide to The Dos and Don’ts of Cannabis on College Campuses

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California legalized cannabis in 2016, paving the way for universities in the state to introduce cannabis-related courses. Despite this, federal restrictions continue to limit the types of courses that colleges can offer.

What types of cannabis courses are permissible in California colleges?

Post-legalization, various public universities in California have integrated courses focusing on business, law, and public policy concerning cannabis. However, while courses in these areas are common, the inclusion of cultivation courses within agricultural programs remains a complex issue.

One of the pioneers in offering cannabis studies is Cal Poly Humboldt, which established a cannabis studies major in 2023. This major features concentrations in environmental stewardship and equity and social justice.

What activities are restricted for colleges due to federal regulations?

Despite the demand for cannabis courses, federal laws prevent institutions like Cal Poly Humboldt from directly handling the plant as part of their curriculum. This restriction poses potential risks to students’ federal financial aid, including Pell grants.

According to Dominic Corva, the director of cannabis studies at Cal Poly Humboldt, federal regulations categorize cannabis as a controlled substance, which hampers universities from offering hands-on experiences with the plant.

While universities like UC Davis, a prominent agricultural institution, do not currently have cannabis courses, general plant science programs can equip students with foundational knowledge applicable to the cannabis industry.

Despite limitations, professors such as Scott Steinmaus at Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo, incorporate cannabis-related examples in their plant physiology classes to provide academic insights without physical interaction with the plant.

Regarding hemp cultivation – a legal variant of cannabis – institutions face similar challenges due to strict compliance regulations outlined in the 2018 federal farm bill.

Universities that wish to offer hemp-related courses must navigate regulatory hurdles, such as obtaining a hemp research license through the state. While some institutions offer hemp courses, others like Cal Poly San Luis Obispo have yet to introduce such programs.

Should federal laws evolve to permit cannabis cultivation courses, the landscape of offerings would vary across institutions, influenced by local and state regulations. Cal Poly Humboldt, for example, envisions a curriculum aligned with regenerative agriculture for sustainable cannabis practices. However, these visions are contingent on overcoming current legal barriers.

Arabel MeyerCalifornia Student Journalism Corps

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