Starting this fall, California State Polytechnic University, Humboldt (Cal Poly Humboldt), formerly known as Humboldt State University, will offer one of the first undergraduate degrees in cannabis studies, which will be administered by the Department of Sociology.
Touted as “America’s cannabis capital”, the counties of Humboldt, Trinity, and Mendocino, also called the “Emerald Triangle”, have been producing plentiful amounts of cannabis since the 1960s. While initially for illegal use, once California legalized medical cannabis use in 1996 and recreational cannabis use in 2016, the region has observed substantial economic output from cannabis sales.
With all this history of cannabis in the region, why didn’t Humboldt State start a cannabis-based program sooner? This is what incoming Humboldt State University President Tom Jackson asked in 2019, and now it’s finally coming to fruition.
Despite a plethora of universities across California conducting cannabis research, including UC Berkeley, UC Davis, University of California-Los Angeles, UC San Diego, and UC Riverside, none offer academic programs on the topic, possibly due to cannabis still being illegal at the federal level.
"Everyone else is industry-facing, in terms of certificates and majors, generally in business, uncritical regulation training, and medicinal plant chemistry. Some universities have liberal arts classes like we do, but none have a whole major," said Dr. Dominic Carva, who is an associate professor of sociology at Cal Poly Humboldt, and director of the new cannabis studies program.
The new program is slated to offer core courses about cannabis along with two degree concentrations: Environmental Stewardship and Equity & Social Justice. The program will also teach students about the history of the cannabis plant from 10,000 years ago to the present day, including throughout colonialism and the Cold War.
The goal of the program will be to prepare students for a variety of cannabis careers in both academia and industry. This is because the number of jobs that will require cannabis and cannabis policy knowledge will be necessary as cannabis use continues to expand both in California and across the country.
"Our students will have a leg up if they want to go that way: regulation, consulting, compliance, political advocacy, and so forth, at every level of governance from cities to counties to states to countries,” said Dr. Canva.
How will Cal Poly Humboldt’s new Cannabis Studies program impact the cannabis industry in the coming years and decades? Only time will tell, and this is why we science!
As always, keep doing science & keep looking up!