First, we had a college in Canada offering a one-year course in commercial cannabis production. In the United States, cannabis is present in academia at very few institutions, but now we have one more. The University of New Mexico, located in Albequerque, has made CJ 293 Cannabis and Communication part of the 2019 academic year. It contributes towards a degree.

The University of New Mexico's library. Photo: PerryPlanet

The University of New Mexico’s library. Photo: PerryPlanet

More about the course

Students will learn of the role cannabis plays in the media. Run by the Communication and Journalism Department, the course will cover the “communication of health and medical issues surrounding cannabis.” It will examine entertainment media, interpersonal communication, journalism and political communication. It’s hoped that the course will increase the exposure of the department to all the university’s students, increasing the exposure of cannabis in academia while it’s at it.

Relevant to every subject, this course is open to all students, not just those studying communications. 120 students will be admitted. It will take place on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 14:00 to 15:15. Associate Professor Tamar Ginossar will do most of the teaching, with some input from a biology professor who will speak of regulations for cannabis and how he has been prevented from conducting research.

In an interview with a local TV channel, Professor Ginossar declared, “Marijuana is an important, controversial and emerging topic in the U.S. and globally.” He added that the legalisation of cannabis was changing laws around the world, making it an exciting time to look at the subject from a communications perspective. He called the course “unique and innovative”. It will, he remarked, encompass what he termed “new media” – social media and the internet generally.

Cannabis can be found in academia in some other ways, too. On Thursday January 3 2019, William Paterson University in Noo Joizee announced that it had formed the Cannabis Institute. This comprises a dozen people from backgrounds that range from public health to criminal justice who have completed research into cannabis usage. The organisation will advise policymakers at municipal, county and state level on cannabis-related issues. Cannabis usage in Noo Joizee is legal for medical but not recreational purposes. Local elected officials strongly support legalisation for recreational purposes, among them the Governor, Phil Murphy, who made it a campaign promise.

The president of the university, Richard J. Helldobler, commented that the institute wasn’t itself for or against legalisation: “I don’t think that our position of the institute is to take a stand one way or another.” Instead, he stated, the institute was “a place you can come to where you can ask your questions” about the use of cannabis or drug policies.

The director of the institute will be Rahi Abouk, a university associate professor of economics, finance and global business. He specialises in the economics of substance abuse. The institute will host conferences, forums, public lectures and seminars, although plans for these are at an early stage. It does not conduct teaching, but students will be able to engage in research.

Cannabis can also be found in academia at Noo Joizee’s Stockton University, which offers a minor degree in cannabis studies.

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