The California marijuana market has been set ablaze.
Too bad students will only get a whiff of it.
Proposition 64, passed in November 2016, legalized recreational marijuana for adults over the age of 21, effectively allowing the state to reap billions of dollars in potential revenue. It also created a tremendous new demand for labor.
California now has one of the world’s largest regulated markets for weed. An estimated 400,000 new jobs may be available in the cannabis industry or related fields by 2021, according to an article by Green Entrepreneur. Cannabis companies need to hire more employees to maintain their production levels and revenue streams.
Many of these jobs require high-level skills and rigorous backgrounds in science or business. Applicants are expected to have a keen understanding of how those fields apply to the marijuana market.
That rules out UCLA students.
There aren’t academic avenues for Bruins to learn about weed. While multiple universities around the country have begun to offer cannabis majors and specializations, UCLA only offers a few classes at best.
A university like UCLA should offer more classes that allow students to gain an educational concentration in cannabis – especially when it’s located in the middle of a multibillion dollar industry hiring smart, qualified graduates from other universities.
Northern Michigan University, for example, offers a major called medicinal plant chemistry that prepares students for the chemical and scientific work of the cannabis industry. UC Davis also prepares students interested in the cannabis workforce through its plant sciences major in the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.
UCLA itself has a graduate research program known as the UCLA Cannabis Research Initiative that focuses on cannabis science, as well as effective cannabis public policy. But only recently did the university begin teaching a few general education classes on cannabis to undergraduates.
The main course in the set is Cannabis 101, an introductory course created after advocacy by student group Cannaclub. There’s also a one-unit class focusing on public policy for criminal justice as well as cannabis and other drugs. But these light additions to students’ curricula aren’t enough to thoroughly prepare them for the cannabis workforce.
A grand total of two classes on cannabis won’t cut it for Bruins who are prospective growers, chemical analysts and governmental regulators. A single general education class surveying cannabis won’t provide students with the kind of expertise they’ll need if they join the industry. And students know this.
Eugenio Garza, a second-year political science student and the director of Cannaclub, said the cannabis educational opportunities at UCLA are severely limited.
“There’s no resource for information for students (and) no opportunities for students who want to work in the (cannabis) industry,” he said.
There are a lot of students seeking to learn about the science of cannabis, like pre-medical students who want to learn more about the endocannabinoid system, or the brain’s use of cannabinoids – which resemble cannabis – to maintain homeostasis. There are business economics students who want to get involved in the venture capital side of the industry. There are even pre-law students who want to center their practice around marijuana and learn about regulations.
Whatever the discipline, there is student demand for courses centered around cannabis.
Published: April 11, 2019
Founder & Interim Editor of L.A. Cannabis News