recreational marijuana

Legalized Cannabis: Eastern Introduces Hemp Cultivation Class, Plans for Full Program

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It's been nearly two weeks since Connecticut became the 19th state to legalize recreational cannabis, and now colleges and universities are looking to launch new programs and classes that will have a focus on the emerging market.

The University of Connecticut and Eastern Connecticut State University are two of the schools introducing new programs.

While it is now legal for adults 21 and older to possess marijuana, recreational sales won't be established in the state until sometime in 2022. In the meantime, the biology department at Eastern is already responding to the changing times.

The school will be teaching its first hemp cultivation classes this fall. It will be a minor to start, with plans to expand it to something that students can choose as a major in the future.

Bryan Connolly, an assistant professor of biology at Eastern and one of the professors behind the new curriculum, said right off the bat, students will be learning how to cultivate hemp, which is a federally legal plant with very low levels of THC.

THC is the chemical in marijuana that gets you high. The cultivation process for hemp, which does not get you high, and marijuana, which can, is pretty much the same.

So even though Eastern students will only have their hands on hemp, they'll know how to handle the more potent cannabis when get out into the working world.

Connolly said he's already getting emails from students who are interested in taking the class. He said they see it as an entrepreneurship opportunity to get in at the ground level in a new and hopefully lucrative industry.

"I think there's a huge amount of room for students who are coming out of school and the job market and I think it's time. I think this is a trend that's been going on in our country for a while with decriminalization, legalization of medical marijuana and then legalization of hemp. This seems to be where American society is going," Connolly said.

Eastern said this isn't just about one single class. In time, it will also work in tandem with chemistry and health sciences, and the business and policy side, including management, marketing, criminology and political science classes.

"It's been a plant that's caused a lot of socio-imbalance, so we hope to get political science involved and it would be really great to train people from communities that have been harmed by the war on drugs and see, potentially, if they could have an economic benefit from being trained in cannabis science," Connolly explained.

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