Quinebaug Valley Community College is launching the state’s first cannabis studies program, with classes set to start this summer.
Although the cannabis industry is still in its early stages in Connecticut, there is already a demand for the program, said Brian Kaufman, an English professor who oversaw the development of the program as the interim academic division director.
“There’s definitely a need for information and for knowledge,” Kaufman said.
In Connecticut, medical marijuana is legal and recreational use of the drug has been decriminalized, but the state has yet to fully legalize it. Currently 11 states, including Maine, Vermont, and Massachusetts have fully legalized the substance and some of those states now have a booming cannabis industry.
“It’s going to happen,” Kaufman said. “We just don’t know how big it’s going to be.”
Among the courses offered in the program are alternative medicine, botany, business, and communications, the college said in a news release. The program kicks off with a course in entrepreneurship this summer. Kaufman said that since the announcement he has been receiving numerous inquiries from students. He doesn’t anticipate any difficulty in filling the 28 seats in this summer’s course.
Other courses will include current cannabis law and policy and the horticulture of cannabis.
Cannabis studies is a certificate program. Students who begin this June would be able to earn the certificate by next May.
One of the main instructors will be Virginia Champagne, who owns Blueberry Hill Organic Farm in South Killingly. The farm produces “over 200 varieties of berries, melons, greens, vegetables and poultry,” according to a college news release. Recently, hemp was added to that list. Champagne also serves on the town’s agricultural commission and has a background as a researcher at the University of Connecticut.
According to the college, an increasing number of institutions of higher education have cannabis-related courses. However, the college identified just two others that have a certificate or degree program: Colorado State University Pueblo and the University of Vermont’s Larner College of Medicine, which have a minor in cannabis studies.
Kaufman said he received full support—along with a lot of questions—at the various levels of administrative approval he needed to get the program going.
“I’ve joked previously that this is a gateway program into other courses of study… whether liberal arts and sciences or general studies or business,” Kaufman said.