Academic institutions are taking heed as federal healthcare officials call for more research into the science of cannabis and its effects on humans. Universities around the U.S. are beginning to develop programs that will help to cultivate a new crop of cannabis experts and motivate research interest and efforts.
Last Friday, the Colorado Department of Higher Education announced the approval of the state’s first cannabis-related degree program, a Bachelor of Science in Cannabis Biology and Chemistry at Colorado State University-Pueblo, according to The Denver Post. The news spread quickly as mainstream media institutions like Newsweek and CNN picked up the story.
Beginning this fall, students interested in pursuing careers within and around the burgeoning cannabis and hemp industries will have the opportunity to enroll in what has been called a “rigorous degree” program by David Lehmpuhl, Dean of the College of Science and Mathematics.
The announcement comes on the heels of a sizable donation to Colorado State University’s Fort Collins campus which will go toward the build-out of a cannabinoid research lab within the College of Natural Sciences set to open in spring. This new research center also plans to work in collaboration with the Institute of Cannabis Research at CSU-Pueblo.
The new CSU-Pueblo program will focus on the science necessary to work in cannabis-related fields, with coursework likened to a double-major in biology and chemistry, Lehmpuhl told The Denver Post. Students will have the option to pursue a track in natural products or analytical chemistry.
The natural products route will focus on biology with additional courses in neurobiology, biochemistry, and genetics with labs centered around cannabis and other natural plant products, while the analytical chemistry option will concentrate on work with chemical compounds and cannabinoid concentrations, the article explained.
The CSU-Pueblo proposal referenced a similar program offered at Northern Michigan University. The NMU undergraduate degree in Medicinal Plant Chemistry was the first of its kind when it was first created in 2017.
With a license to grow and work with industrial hemp on site, not THC-rich cannabis, Lehmpuhl was careful to point out that students in the CSU-Pueblo program will not be working with products containing high levels of THC in the lab. CBD and minor cannabinoids will likely be areas of investigation, however.
Lehmpuhl expects a high demand for the program.
“One of the things that motivated us in developing this program was this industry is sort of developed without oversight and regulation, Lehmpuhl told The Denver Post. I think now it’s becoming clear when you look at even the recent vaping crisis that occurred that there’s a need for having trained scientists in that space.” He went on to say, “We’re not pro-cannabis or anti-cannabis. What we’re about will be the science and training students to look at that science.”