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CSU-Pueblo recently implemented a bachelor's program around cannabis studies in 2020.
CSU-Pueblo recently implemented a bachelor's program around cannabis studies in 2020.

Looking at the future workforce through cannabis studies

Located in one of the most progressive states in the country, CSU-Pueblo has created a bachelor’s degree program about cannabis. 

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In Fall 2020, Colorado State University-Pueblo became among the first universities in the U.S. to offer a cannabis-related degree program. 

The Bachelor of Science in Cannabis Biology and Chemistry (CBC) at CSU-Pueblo provides students with an “understanding of basic chemical and biological principles that can be applied to the emerging field of cannabis science,” the program overview reads. 

The program will allow students to understand cannabis physiology and growth, the pharmaceutical implications and the practical applications for the industry. Students will also have the option of specializing in one of two areas of interest: analytical and natural products.   

“Our cannabis program is a really innovative academic program that is pure science, but really driven by place,” said Dr. Donna Souder Hodge, chief strategy officer at CSU-Pueblo, “by this moment in history, in this moment in time.”

The implementation of the new program builds off an effort that started over five years ago.

In June 2016, The Institute of Cannabis Research (ICR) was established through an innovative partnership between CSU-Pueblo, the state of Colorado and Pueblo County. 

Through state and federal funding, the ICR became the nation’s first multi-disciplinary cannabis research center at a regional, comprehensive institution. 

“What’s so important about that Institute of Cannabis Research was that the state ultimately [selected] CSU-Pueblo for its home,” added Dr. Souder Hodge. 

“The Institute has provided a lot of visibility, as well,” added Dr. Mohamed Abdelrahman, CSU-Pueblo Provost and Executive Vice President of Academic Affairs.

Since its inception, the ICR has offered an annual international conference each summer, the Cannabis Research Conference. The theme for this year’s conference, done virtually in August, was “Exploring Cannabis Research Frontiers.” 

In addition, the ICR also supports the Journal for Cannabis Research, an international open access journal which covers all aspects of cannabis, from clinical and scientific and beyond. 

With CSU-Pueblo’s focus on preparing students through teaching, research and engagement, the ICR and subsequent cannabis program, provide students with an opportunity to do so early in their academic careers. 

“Our Provost is really committed to building opportunities for students to get hands-on research opportunities, even at freshmen levels,” Dr. Souder Hodge added. “So that's really critical.”

Dr. Mohamed Abdelrahman, CSU-Pueblo Provost and Executive Vice President of Academic Affairs, highlighted that the focus on cannabis comes from a neutral viewpoint.

“We are not pro-cannabis or anti-cannabis,” he said. “We are just trying to prepare students with the needed science-based education that allows them to help the industry make the right decisions.”

With the conversations surrounding cannabis continuing to evolve, the program and the students who come out of the program and into the industry can go a long way towards shaping that conversation in the years to come. 

Dr. Souder Hodge noted that the ICR and new program are critical to what the future of the workforce may look like. 

While the program is less than a year old, it has already developed a popular reputation with its level of interest, she said. 

“It tells you that with hard science involved that there are students who are thinking about what the future workforce opportunities around cannabis are,” said Dr. Souder Hodge. “And around that kind of real science and research that’s going to be necessary to make policy decisions.”

In addition, she noted that it can also provide critical strategic opportunities for communities in Colorado and the southwest, in terms of economic development around cannabis and cannabis-related topics. 

Dr. Abdelrahman also hinted at a proposal to continue expanding the program in the years to come through collaboration with its sister institution in Fort Collins. 

For more information on CSU-Pueblo’s cannabis studies program, click here

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