UConn students ‘passionate about cannabis education’

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FILE – In this Dec. 14, 2010 file photo, a marijuana plant is seen growing at Med Grow Cannabis College in Southfield, Mich. More than 250 Michigan communities have banned marijuana businesses just two months after the state became the first in the Midwest to legalize the drug for recreational use. MLive reports that some cities and townships have enacted temporary bans until the state creates regulations to govern the recreational marijuana industry. Many of the state’s biggest cities, including Detroit and Lansing, haven’t passed any restrictions. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio, File)

The University of Connecticut debuted “Horticulture of Cannabis: From Seed to Harvest” this semester, a class that covers the complete growing cycle of cannabis and demonstrates some of the challenges associated with growing the plant.

The class filled quickly and upgraded through three increasingly larger lecture halls before ending up in the largest lecture hall on campus and an enrollment of over 300 students, according to course instructor Matthew DeBacco.

“Some (students) are interested in the actual process of growing, others have more of a legal perspective and others are just plain interested and excited that UConn is offering a course of this kind,” DeBacco said.

In class, students spend 30 minutes working in break-out sessions to answer questions and the remaining time DeBacco reviews their answers to “provide an expert opinion,” DeBacco said. “I have structured it to be a ‘flipped classroom’ method of instruction,” DeBacco said. “The students are given slides and videos as content to review and watch as homework.”

Madison Blake, a seventh-semester sustainable plant and soil systems major taking the class and assisting in the growing, said she is “passionate about cannabis education.”

“Everyone is (in the class) because they are interested in this incredible plant,” Blake said. “Hopefully the students taking this class will leave with a real understanding of what cannabis is and is not, and an idea of the systems and practices required to grow such a demanding and important plant.”

Evert McKee is another seventh-semester sustainable plant and soil systems major, who received a UConn grant to do independent cannabis studies.

“I care a lot about cannabis because of my own personal experiences. I definitely had some influence towards the class,” McKee said. “Because of the knowledge I obtained in (past studies in the department), I was qualified for internships on commercial cannabis operations.”

After working at Brotherly Love Organics in California, McKee brought back his knowledge pertaining to natural farming, which helped him start his own study here at UConn.

“I feel like academic science needs to bridge the gap of intelligence between practitioners and theologians,” McKee said. “The folks doing research should be doing work that benefits the industry and humanity both environmentally and economically.”

Although there is not a lab portion of the class, there are still opportunities for students to work hands-on with cannabis.

“There are two complete grow tents set up in the floriculture greenhouses that students are encouraged to visit,” Blake said. “Plant material and supplies are frequently brought to the lecture hall for demonstration purposes.”

The sustainable soil and plant systems program is able to grow the cannabis under the Farm Bill that classifies cannabis under .3 percent THC as hemp, which the cannabis grown at UConn is, according to McKee.

“I hope more majors, specifically pharmacology and chemistry, start doing work with this plant,” McKee said. “As all of its compounds are beneficial in some way for our degrading sense of community.”


Ashley Anglisano is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. She can be reached by email at ashley.anglisano@uconn.edu.

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