CASTLETON — There is a discussion about marijuana on the Castleton University campus — and not the kind one might expect. With recreational use of marijuana legal in the state of Vermont as of July 1, Castleton professors are now proposing that the university offer a certificate program on cannabis.
According to a draft proposal, the program will be designed to give students an interdisciplinary education regarding cannabis.
“What we’re looking at beginning with is simply three courses, plus the internship and/or research project,” said Brendan Lalor, philosophy professor.
The program, as proposed, calls for 12 to 15 credits and, according to Lalor, students can expect to learn about cannabis from various aspects and need no prerequisites.
“You don’t have to be a jack of all trades prior to entering the program,” he said.
Castleton professors Philip Lamy and Joseph Markowski helped design the program along with Lalor.
“I’m a sociologist and an anthropologist,” Lamy said. “I’m interested in the history, the culture, the anthropology of cannabis.”
According to Lamy, many cultures around the world have used cannabis for various things, including medicine and manufacturing products like rope.
“Even prior to the first agricultural development, cannabis was used,” he said. “It looks as though it began in central Asia.”
If the proposal is accepted, Lamy will teach the introductory course, “Cannabis, Culture and Consciousness.” The course will provide an overview of the cultural, philosophical, spiritual and social-psychological history of cannabis.
“There are a number of agricultural products that can come from this plant,” Markowski said. “The ‘Cannabis, Cultivation and Care’ course will be looking at those particular themes.”
Two of the themes that the course will look at, Markowski said, are how to cultivate it and care for it. Care will be divided into two parts: sustainability and producing medicine. In addition to his work as an adjunct professor, Markowski owns a farm in South Londonderry.
“I have greenhouse cultivation,” he said. “We grow most of our own food, and so my thinking about cannabis cultivation and the care of that brings in this model of holistic values.”
Another course, “Canna-Business,” will focus on the economic and business dimensions of the cannabis industry. Students will also be expected to partake in an internship, capstone or research project, the professors said.
Lamy noted that Vermont residents have always taken care of the land.
“That’s kind of one of the spins we want to put on cannabis,” Lamy said. “This isn’t Cheech and Chong cannabis. This is a natural plant, a useful plant, among the very first agriculturally domesticated plants in central Asia.”
Though the program is still in the proposal stage, 2 years ago Lalor and Lamy taught the “Cannabis, Culture and Consciousness’ course as an experiment. The results were successful.
“We had to greatly enlarge the seating capacity because there was so many students who wanted it,” Lamy said. “We ended up turning students away. We ended up having students sitting in our class, monitoring it, even though they weren’t in the class.”
According to Lamy, most people on campus seem to think that this is a good idea — including Castleton President Karen Scolforo.
“Our faculty’s work in developing a cannabis studies program exemplifies Castleton’s nimbleness, commitment to innovation and responsiveness to regional demands,” she said. “We will all garner a sense of internal support as professors Phil Lamy and Brendan Lalor pursue approvals from our Curriculum Committee and Faculty Assembly.”
For Lalor, students who take part in the program will be better qualified to help lead the state on this issue.
“Students who are interested in cannabis, who believe the future of Vermont, the economy of Vermont and the freedoms in Vermont involve cannabis policy, would be, in the context of our program, prepared for engaging the issues in Vermont and sort of help lead the state forward on the creating of constructive, positive policies that will enhance the lives of Vermonters,” he said.