Castleton University is now offering a Cannabis Studies certificate program and is garnishing a lot of attention for it. Next semester students can start a 12-credit journey to better understand the substance.
“The Certificate is a great way to supplement your existing major while simultaneously giving yourself a leg-up if you're looking to participate in, or even just better understand, the cultural and economic changes and opportunities beginning unfold in Vermont and the nation,” said philosophy professor Brendan Lalor, one of the architects of the program.
What started as a call to action four years ago from three professors to combat the many voices slandering cannabis, eventually grew into the program being offered today to properly teach students about the plant.
Lalor and fellow professors Philip Lamy and Joe Markowski are the three founding fathers of the program. They are pleased that it is moving forward, but they say it wasn’t without obstacles.
“There has been a resistance to progressive change. Some alumni think this will ruin the representation of the college while others think this is the best thing we have ever done,” said Lamy, a professor of sociology and anthropology.
Phones have been ringing off the hook for this program with people expressing interest from all over the state, Lamy said. The classes will be offered to not only current students, but non-matriculated students as well who are looking to get into the industry.
“We think that there are a lot of interested people out there, and already I have received so many requests. There is a waiting list for classes because students want to be sure they get a seat in the class in the summer or the fall,” Lamy says.
Students interviewed had a variety of opinions about the program, but none were bad.
“It actually says a lot about the school offering a program that is sort of controversial. It is unique. Not a lot of schools will offer stuff like that, so it shows that Castleton is putting itself out there,” said Senior Mikayla Mecier. “If I wasn’t graduating in less than two months, and looked into it, I would take it, because it looks interesting.”
Other students were a little less reflective with their answer.
“I think it will be cool. It will inform people about what we are smoking,” said sophomore Patrick Lucey.
And some students are hopeful about what the program could help achieve.
“This could broaden the horizon of what cannabis can do for people. Well maybe in the future, we can get rid of all the painkillers and opioids and replace it with CBD and all that,” said senior Benn Lussier.
However, not everyone is jumping on the train right away. In a recent Faculty Assembly meeting during which professors ended up approving the program, some professors involved in athletics, health and fitness wanted to add a substance use and addiction course to the program. If Castleton is to offer a “Cannabis Studies” program, they felt that class was a necessity.
“How can you have a ‘Substance Studies’ program without a course that studies the substance itself? From a scientific perspective, not a culture and consciousness, cultivate and care, or business perspective,” said Katy Culpo, associate professor of the Health Education program.
Culpo also stressed she is not opposed to having a Cannabis Studies program at CU, going even further to say she really likes the idea. However, it cannot be a “Cannabis Studies” if you do not study the health effects and risks.
Classes currently to be offered include Cannabis, Culture, & Consciousness; Canna-Business; Cannabis, Cultivation, and Care, and an internship.
But admission officials are warning students that courses in the program are not covered by federal financial aid. Taking one of these classes carrying only 12 credits in a semester will result in a student having to pay separately. Taking 15 or more credits will not make the classes cost extra.
Professors teaching in the program are excited for what it can provide to students and the university.
“We tailored a survey looking at Cannabis studies and the results were overwhelming. One hundred-forty-four responses, 86 percent were open to the courses. Other schools are joining in on the trend and we want to sort of be the leader in it,” Markowski said.
At least 20 other schools have some sort of cannabis course, the professors said.
“We got tons of calls from stores all around the area with people in the business who want people who are trained in the business,” Lamy said.