Anthropology program to offer ‘reality of the world’ through new cannabis class

Zack Hochberg, Staff Writer

Quinnipiac University’s anthropology program will offer students a three-credit course about cannabis next fall. 

Anthropology professor Hillary Haldane, who will be teaching the course, said the class aims to help students understand their relationship to other species on this planet, “whether other animal or plant species, particularly given the climate catastrophe we face.”

Amanda Riha

Haldane said the course originated after students expressed interest in the topic through other anthropology courses. 

“Rather than trying to cover every plant that can be used for medicinal or psychedelic purposes, I thought ‘why don’t I just focus on cannabis and use that as kind of a case study’ of which I can talk about all the issues related to it and really just extend that module,” Haldane said. 

With cannabis becoming increasingly legalized across the country, including Connecticut in July, Haldane said it’s important for students to be prepared to live in a world where cannabis is legal.

Even though there still are negative connotations when it comes to cannabis, Haldane said any higher education institution has a responsibility to teach anything that’s “real and present.”

“I think teaching on a relationship with plants and the very way we use plants, and this plant in particular, which is used for so many purposes, and in light of the environmental awareness and climate catastrophe, I can’t imagine not being responsible as a university and not offering course on the reality of the world,” Haldane said.

College students are not unfamiliar with marijuana; 44% of them reported using it in 2020, according to a poll from the National Institutes of Health. 

“Anthropologists bring a nuanced and holistic perspective to the study of plant use and related regulation and stigmatization in society, as the discipline upends common assumptions and beliefs,” Haldane said. “We make the strange familiar and the familiar strange.” 

The course will look into the use of cannabis across multiple cultures, how the media portrays the plant and the impact the plant has on human behavior.

Additionally, Haldane hopes to study the health benefits and disadvantages of the plant as well as giving students the opportunity to “develop their own projects related to their particular interest in the plant and its many manifestations.” 

In Haldane’s opinion, it’s important for students who want to pursue the cannabis business “to understand how sustainable or environmentally friendly the increased legal access to the plant may or may not be,” the professor said.

A report released earlier this year found that cannabis sales hit a record $17.5 billion in 2020. Additionally, the industry added over 250,000 jobs. 

In Connecticut, local colleges like Three Rivers Community College have already begun introducing cannabis classes to their students. 

However, some Quinnipiac students said they are excited about the opportunity to learn more about the plant.

“Whether you like it or not, cannabis is a part of the college experience for a lot of people,” said James Edwards, a sophomore business major. “I think it’d be a fun class to take. It’s also a big business, so as a business student, it’s definitely interesting from that perspective.”

The course will be available to all students as a UC social sciences course with no prerequisites. 

“It’s exciting,” said Ethan Miller, a first-year media studies major. “I feel like some universities around the country aren’t open to adapting their classes to match how the world is changing so it’s nice to see Quinnipiac be more progressive about things like this.”