As the industry grows and matures, many job opportunities and positions in cannabis require education, and colleges and universities are responding by doing research on the plant and offering courses and programs aimed at the many aspects of cannabis legalization.

At the turn of the new century, all study of cannabis was discouraged by the government, and the idea of college classes or a degree in cannabis was little more than a pipe dream. Today, Northern Michigan University offers a degree in chemistry with a focus on health applications; the Daniels School of Business in Denver includes a course on cannabis business’ and cannabis industry-specific universities like Oaksterdam University are seeing more and more people interested in a career in the emerging world of legal cannabis.

Now, a group of CU biology professors this summer will begin offering “Modern Cannabis Science,” a new class aimed at people who are informed about cannabis but want a deeper appreciation for the work scientists are doing these days.

“The class was developed through our non-profit Agricultural Genomics Foundation,” an organization dedicated to cannabis scientific research and education, says CU evolutionary biologist Dr. Daniela Vergara. “The emphasis is on what we’re learning about cannabis biology in general focused on genetics and genomics.”

Drs. Vergara, Anna Schwabe and Cloe Pogoda began developing the class in September, which will deal with evolutionary history and global distribution of cannabis, a deep look at sex chromosomes and analyses that could aid law enforcement and forensic investigations. “We are using the latest scientific literature that’s been published,” Vergara says.

CU researchers have been at the forefront of cannabis research. Besides being director of AGF, Vergara is involved in the Cannabis Genomic Research Initiative, working to create a high-density, genetic model of the cannabis plant as  part of the Ecology and Evolutionary Biology program. Learning the basics of cannabis and hemp plant structures can open up possibilities for food, textiles, paper, fabrics and even fuel oil, as well as develop cannabis strains that negate the paranoia some users feel with THC.

CU’s Cannabis Observational Study on Mood, Inflammation and Cognition (COSMIC), is gathering data on marijuana’s effects on the brain, its anti-inflammatory properties and how it affects temperament, reasoning, perception and understanding. It recently posted preliminary findings on the effects of THC concentrates in users. Kent Hutchison, who has been conducting cannabis research at CU, is offering “Medical Cannabis: The Health Effects of THC and CBD Specialization” through the online portal Coursera, with four basic classes about cannabis as medicine. 

If you’re wondering about the new Genomics’ class, you can get a taste by tuning into the AFG podcast series on treating epilepsy, the power of terpenes, and using cannabis for chronic pain and mental health, among others.

This summer, the new Genomics’ class will be offered only to CU students, but Vergara and the team are looking to extend its reach to other universities and schools moving forward. “We want to make it available to budtenders, hemp farmers, policy makers, care givers, and users, both medical and recreational,” she says.