CSU-Pueblo is launching the state’s first cannabis degree program,
one of only a handful in the nation.
STORY BY ROBYN GRIGGS LAWRENCE
In yet, another sign that the cannabis industry is mainstreaming—and that southern Colorado is indeed the Silicon Valley of cannabis—Colorado State University-Pueblo will be among the first in the nation to offer a bachelor of science in cannabis biology and chemistry starting this fall. CSU-Pueblo officials say the program will emphasize the science of cannabis as it prepares students to work in the rapidly expanding cannabis industry—making CSU-Pueblo the Stanford of cannabis (naturally).
The state’s first cannabis degree program, which will be part of CSU-Pueblo’s chemistry department, will consist of two tracks. There will be an analytical track focused on chemistry, and a natural product track focused on biology will prepare students to formulate salves, skin treatments, and supplements. Students in the program will work only with industrial hemp, which CSU-Pueblo has a federal license to grow, but no flower or products containing THC.
First, be informed. THCV, a close cousin to THC, is an up-and-coming cannabinoid because scientists have discovered it has appetite-suppression capabilities.
Real Housewives star Bethenny Frankel is using that information to develop Skinnygirl diet-conscious cannabis (announced in 2015 but still not launched), and GW Pharmaceuticals has filed a patent to use THCV to control insulin levels.
CSU-Pueblo’s state-funded Institute of Cannabis Research on the Belmont Campus, which has been growing and researching hemp since last May, regularly receives inquiries from industry leaders requesting that the university provide industry-related curriculum. School officials hope to partner with some of these businesses to provide mentoring and internships.
“The new major is a proactive response to a rapidly changing national scene regarding the cannabis plant,” a CSU-Pueblo proposal for the program states, adding that officials believe 15 new freshman students could be enrolled this fall and 60 more will be enrolled within four years. “We believe that the demand for this new major is strong,” the proposal states.
“We are interested in trying to make sure that as this industry grows and expands in Colorado and across the nation, the products people are using—be it marijuana or industrial hemp—are safe and we know what the effects are, and we know what is going on,” says David Lempuhl, dean of the College of Science and Mathematics at CSU-Pueblo. “We came up with this degree program to address that need.”
CSU-Pueblo is certainly ahead of the game, but it’s not the first to offer a cannabis degree. Northern Michigan University is offering a bachelor’s program in medicinal plant chemistry, and the University of Maryland-Balti- more’s School of Pharmacy offers a master of science degree in medical cannabis. Minot State in North Dakota offers a four-year degree program, and courses are being offered at colleges and universities across the country, including Clark College in Worcester, Massachusetts, and the University of Las Vegas.