This post was updated Oct. 2 at 2:36 p.m.
A noncredit course at UCLA will educate students on various components of a perhaps misrepresented drug: cannabis.
Cannabis 101 is a course offered by the student-run UCLA Cannaclub, a club that focuses on educating UCLA students on the various facets of marijuana. The class, available to all interested students, will meet every other Wednesday fall quarter, covering a range of topics related to cannabis, such as the biology of the plant and responsible usage. Students who attend will have the opportunity to learn more about the increasingly conspicuous drug, the stigma around it and how to make connections in the lucrative cannabis industry. Arazoo Shwany, a fifth-year human biology and society student and the education director of the club, said it is particularly important that the club succeeds in creating real dialogue involving more than just conversations about recreational use.
“We want to primarily reduce and abolish the stigma surrounding cannabis at UCLA and to do this through educating the students,” Shwany said. “Another layer of our mission is to make the most of this legalization by connecting students to industry opportunity.”
The lectures will be delivered by an expert in the particular topic being presented, and students will be encouraged to ask questions following the presentation. Attendance will be taken at each of the classes, and for those who consistently attend, Shwany said, Cannaclub will send their information to various cannabis-related startups and companies it has built relationships with, such as Medicinal Genomics and Los Angeles’ Department of Cannabis Regulation. Students will then have the opportunity to contact companies, offering them a bridge into the industry and allowing them to apply the information they have learned.
The club and the courses are centered around two major goals, said Eugenio Castro Garza, a second-year political science student and Cannaclub’s director. One goal is to provide a network for students to get involved in within the skyrocketing cannabis industry, Garza said. Much of the industry is made up of young professionals ranging from lawyers to salespeople, and UCLA students are at a particular advantage given their proximity to LA, the epicenter of the industry, he said.
A second goal is to disseminate important and relevant information regarding cannabis in an effort to promote education about the often-misunderstood drug, Garza said. He said popular culture portrays marijuana as a drug that induces laziness and lack of motivation, and while there are certain truthful components to this representation, there is more to the drug that is important for students to understand, such as responsible usage and state, national and international policies and regulations. Garza said he hopes the course will allow students to thoroughly understand the drug, its benefits and its pitfalls.
“Cannabis has become so ubiquitous, especially here in LA. It’s becoming very social. … It’s no longer surprising that people are doing it,” Garza said. “There has to be the education, from the science perspective, from the public health perspective – people need to know.”
Jeffrey Chen, the executive director of the UCLA Cannabis Research Initiative, said removing the stigma surrounding many aspects of cannabis through education and opening up dialogue about potential benefits and harmful effects are cornerstones of the course.
“For me, the stigma really stems from misinformation. … I am all about providing accurate information and destigmatizing it from that standpoint,” Chen said. “Educating yourself, being aware, is the best thing that everybody can do, whether you’re an advocate or an opponent, because there’s no avoiding marijuana at this point.”
Cannaclub has its eyes set on an exciting future, Garza said. For the long term, Garza said the club hopes the course will eventually be a catalog course offering credit to students. Garza said he feels there is a void of education in the multidisciplinary study of cannabis, and while other universities like UC Irvine and UC San Diego are offering official courses in the subject, UCLA is falling behind, especially since LA is a major hub in the legal marijuana marketplace. Students want to learn more about the subject, and the excitement he sees while speaking to students is what keeps him enthusiastic, Garza said.
“You go up to people and say, ‘Hey, are you interested in cannabis?’ and they sort of laugh, but the moment you start explaining it, you see their faces turn serious and they actually engage with you, most of them,” Garza said. “And they really get what you’re doing and why you’re doing it, and that just reinforces my motivation to keep going because people really want to learn about this stuff.”