Cannabis Goes To College: Classes Address Marijuana-Related Issues

Marijuana, once a taboo topic discussed only in private by those who had to buy it on the black market, now has made its way into the halls of academia.

Yes, cannabis has (legally) gone to college.

Temple University’s school of communications started this semester to offer a class on “Marijuana in the Media.” The University of Denver law school has a class on “Representing the Marijuana Client.” And Ohio State University offers a class on marijuana policy and reform.

Spurred by the legalization of recreational marijuana in eight states and medical marijuana in 28, colleges have started to tackle issues around the legal cannabis industry.

It’s a long way from the 1970s, when a sitting president and his aides apparently willingly lied about marijuana and other drugs to spark the “War on Drugs.” Back then, marijuana only made it on a college campus if someone snuck it into a dorm room.

Reefer Madness

The class at Temple focuses on how marijuana has been portrayed in media. They touch on the days of the “Reefer Madness” movie from 1938 – the movie poster pictured here tells you all you need to know.  They then move to the more serious journalism surrounding cannabis as legalization has spread throughout the country the past decade.

One of the professors is Chris Goldstein, a columnist for Philly420 and a staunch advocate for cannabis. His biographical information on the site says “Goldstein smoked his first joint in 1994 and has been working to legalize marijuana ever since.”

He’s even written about the effect of marijuana on sex, another topic he addresses in the class, according to the Philadelphia website BillyPenn.

Marijuana Policy

At Ohio State and the University of Denver, the focus of marijuana classes is in on policy and law.

Douglas Berman, who teaches the class at Ohio State, said the topic is of the utmost seriousness for those who wish to practice law or work on policy in government.

“This his is a serious area that is a matter of significant public policy,” Berman told the Columbus Dispatch. “If we leave it to the snickers and the ha-ha’s and the people who think it’s a joke, you ensure that it’s not going to be regulated and reformed in a sensible way.”

The class focuses on how the legalization of marijuana at the state level – it remains illegal at the federal level – affects banks, criminal justice and politics.

Denver Leads the Way

The University of Denver class is generally recognized as the first to tackle legal issues surrounding marijuana. Colorado was the first state to allow adult-use marijuana sales, followed closely by Washington and Oregon.

The course description hits the nail on the head, calling the current legal environment surrounding marijuana “turbulent.” The class covers many aspects of marijuana legalization, focusing specifically on the dispute between state and federal laws.

Back at Temple, the new class appears to be the first to go outside legal issues and focus on how marijuana has been perceived, based on coverage in the media. Students also are asked, as one project for the semester, to identify issues they believe deserve greater coverage in the media.

Students told BillyPenn the class is fun, but they are taking the topic seriously.

“It’s not like we’re giggling,” one student said. “We don’t even call it weed or pot. It’s cannabis or marijuana or sativa. We take it very seriously, and since we’ve been doing that the class has just been like- we’ve been getting a lot out of the class.”

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