UConn To Offer Cannabis Course, But It’s Not About Getting High

UConn students are going to have the chance to learn how to grow the ideal crop of cannabis next semester, but it has nothing to do with getting high.

It’s all about research, hard science and finding a job in the burgeoning marijuana industry.

UConn Professor Gerard Berkowitz, a plant scientist, said that for years people with an interest in growing cannabis or marijuana would go online and learn how from unaccredited, nonresearch-based programs.

Berkowitz says UConn will be one of the first universities in the country to offer students the chance to learn the science behind cannabis horticulture.

“UConn will be providing students with an opportunity to be absolutely at the cutting edge of a growing field,” he said. “Companies hiring people who learned in their basement will have an opportunity to hire people who were educated based on a curriculum that’s founded in hard science.”

Berkowitz, who has been conducting research on cannabis for several years, said he noticed the demand to learn more about the field last year, when he was approached by a “tidal wave” of students who wanted to do independent research projects with him. At the same time, he said, there were companies interested in forming ties with the university.

“So for jobs alone and for student interest, it’s a no-brainer,” said Berkowitz, who envisions possibly one day offering the class online to a thousand students from around the country.

It may also be possible to offer more advanced courses on the cannabis and marijuana industry and research, he said, eventually perhaps offering UConn students the chance to minor in the field.

“There’s such a need for people with horticulture degrees, biochemical degrees, engineering degrees,” Berkowitz said, to research the plant and work in the industry. “We are talking about having scholarship and science and rigor infused into a world that had been folklore and in the basement.”

The new class, which he expects will attract about 100 students, is called “Horticulture of Cannabis: From Seed to Harvest” and will cover the complete growing cycle of cannabis and will help students develop an understanding of some of the common challenges and how to best identify and correct those problems.

There are no prerequisites for the class and there is no lab. However, cannabis plants will be grown for class demonstrations on how to make cuttings, how to trim and harvest and other topics.

The course catalog said the course is “designed to provide an intensive, but introductory overview of the horticultural techniques used to grow and manage this medically important and high value crop.”

The class will be taught by Berkowitz along with several experts working in the cannabis industry, including former graduate student Matt DeBacco.

Berkowitz noted that the cannabis he is working with is low “tetrahydrocannabinol” or THC hemp cannabis. Unlike potent marijuana, the plants Berkowitz is using do not have enough of the pyschoactive component to enable the user to get high.

Peter Apicella, a current graduate student working with Berkowitz, said he is very interested in working with cannabis because it has so many potentially useful components.

“It’s really a beautiful plant that has some pretty amazing properties,” Apicella said. “We’re hoping to study those properties in the plant science way. Hopefully, we can inform medical science and producers can deliver a good, scientifically documented product to the consumer.”

“I think I’ll have a very bright career in this industry,” he said.





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