STORRS, Conn. (CBSNewYork) — In what may be the ultimate “weed out” course, Cannabis 101 is now offered at a major research university in the Tri-State area.
Its goal is to prepare students for work in the fast-growing field of legal marijuana.
Even on a cold day at the University of Connecticut, there’s a warm glow from the high-pressure sodium lights inside the school’s greenhouse. It’s there that a crop you might expect to be hidden off campus is carefully tended by serious-minded students.
“These are plants I’m growing to determine the effects of lactic acid bacteria on terpene profile,” UConn student Evert McKee said.
400 students enrolled in the first cannabis horticulture class offered by a major university.
“It’s not just like ‘here’s a weed plant,’ we’re learning about cannabis and what it can really do,” UConn student Madison Blake said.
Taking them through all the steps of the complete grow cycle, the UConn cannabis is legal since it lacks the psychoactive compound THC.
“Everything else is pretty much the same, so it’s a good way to study marijuana without studying marijuana,” graduate assistant Peter Apicella said.
So what did their parents say about taking such a class?
“They discouraged it a little bit because of it being put on my transcript, and the connotation behind cannabis,” UConn student Mitchell Gross.
It turns out, Gross’ parents concerns are far from a rare occurrence.
“It has a very negative stigma to it,” instructor Matt De Bacco said. “Lots of people didn’t want to go near it because they’re fearful of pushback.”
De Bacco says its a bold move by UConn, recognizing the fast-growing acceptance of cannabis for medical, recreational, and other uses.
“There’s fiber, medicine, food,” McKee said.
“When people don’t abuse it and it can really be used to help people it can really go a long way,” student Joe Lombardi said.
College students, of course, are worried about finding work after graduation. A market research firm says the cannabis industry will hit $40 billion by 2021 and support more than 400,000 jobs.
“I would love to work in a grow facility, something large scale,” Blake said. “Hopefully I can bring some of the knowledge that I’ve gained here.”
Professor Gerry Berkowitz says UConn will become a center for serious cannabis research.
“The industries are hiring people who grew pot in the basement,” he said. “There’s a great need for scholarship… we have a chance to make history together.”
30 states have approved medical marijuana and nine states have legalized it for recreational use, which is currently under consideration in New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut.