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The first cannabis studies Associate of Arts degree in the nation will be offered by City College of San Francisco starting in Spring 2021.

The program, which is being implemented along with three brand new classes, is referred to as a “gateway degree” due to its intention to introduce students to larger disciplines such as brain science. In order to complete the degree, students are required to pass courses in the psychology of psychoactive drugs, the anthropology of cannabis, and an intro to cannabis studies as well as three electives.

“We’re not here to teach people what to think about cannabis and the subjects. Our job is to teach people how to think about it,” said Jennifer Carlin, chair of the Behavioral Sciences Department . “Our hope is that students will come and not only learn about cannabis if they want to be working in the industry, but also to understand how powerfully important cannabis as a concept and as a phenomenon is.”

Part of the cannabis studies curriculum explores the effects that psychoactive drugs have on the brain, ranging from caffeine to hallucinogens and of course marijuana. Much of the material for this course will focus on cultivating student’s abilities to evaluate scientific studies. Professor Karen Hu said she hopes that it will motivate her students to pursue careers in cognitive sciences.

“I hope these skills will help people make smart decisions about drugs,” said Hu during a webinar on Thursday. “There are so many research questions yet to be answered, and this makes it an exciting world ahead for the curious future neuroscientists.”

The program was initially conceived more than four years ago, and Carlin said she never imagined how pertinent of a topic it would eventually become.

“The timing of the launch of our degree, which was utterly accidental in relationship to everything else that is going on, is really salient,” she said. “We don’t really have to sell the idea that cannabis is related to disproportionate policies that have harmed groups of people.”

Carlin attributed the department’s inspiration for the program to their desire to remove the stigmatization from the drug, and to shed light on the unfair judicial practices that stigma has perpetuated.

“We want to be part of the movement that looks at cannabis in a different light than just the stigmatization,” she said. “The cannabis studies degree is not only the first Associate’s Degree in the country, but it is the only program that takes social equity and a specific integrative approach.”

Chancellor of CCSF Rajen Vurdien also expressed his excitement over the new degree during the webinar, emphasizing this move as a sign of the college’s progressive ethos.

“This shows how fast the college moves to address societal problems and issues and at the same time to address the need of the job market as they emerge,” Vurdien said. “This program of study challenges students to develop critical thinking skills and to incorporate theory and research in the development of evidence based points of view on equity, social context and cannabis.”

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