US First: Cannabis Biology and Chemistry Degree


The cannabis aficionado now has a college where they can major in marijuana: Colorado State University-Pueblo. 

Starting in fall of 2020, students can enroll at the US’s first bachelor of science degree in cannabis biology and chemistry. The hope is that the degree will act as a gateway for graduates to jump straight into the growing industry.

Cannabis in campus

“The first two years of the program are essentially foundation courses in chemistry and biology, physics and math,” says David Lehmpuhl, the school’s dean of the college of science and mathematics.

“Then students will have to select either a natural products or an analytical emphasis,” he adds. “The analytical emphasis, of course, has a lot more chemistry involved in it, including a course on extraction of natural products. And then students who are more interested in the neurobiology or the genetics of the plant can focus on the natural product side.”

The program will teach students cannabis physiology and growth, general chemistry, organic chemistry, environmental toxicology, and medicinal plant biochemistry. But given the ever-fluctuating landscape of cannabis regulations in the US, Lehmpuhl is keen students keep abreast of pot policy, too.

“The degree actually has a lot of elective credits that we've left open on purpose,” he tells Analytical Cannabis. “If students want to focus on the policy side of things, they can take coursework in political science, or they can minor in business while they get this major.”

“We wanted to make this degree as flexible as possible,” he continues, “but still give them the expertise in the cannabis to be employable in the cannabis industry.”

But, of course, the remits of the degree only go as far as US law. So any student hoping to get hands-on with stronger strains may be disappointed.

“We still have to be federally compliant,” Lehmpuhl clarifies. “We don't want students to jeopardize their financial aid and we don't want to jeopardize any national grants that we've got at the university.”

While your average Coloradan could be forgiven for thinking cannabis was fully legal (the state netted $1.75 billion last year in cannabis sales), any plant material with more than 0.3 percent THC by weight is still considered federally illegal in the US. So, to stay lawful, the only plant material students will be getting to grips with will be federally legal, non-intoxicating hemp.

“We have a Colorado Department of Agricultural licence to work with industrial hemp, and we've got that growing in our greenhouse,” Lehmpuhl says. “So that'll be what students are using in the laboratory portion of their curriculum. We won't have any high THC material here.”


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