UConn Cannabis Minor Should Address Inequities

The University of Connecticut began offering a cannabis cultivation minor, but the minor not be adequately addressing the inequality surrounding this drug. Illustration by Zaire Diaz/The Daily Campus.

The University of Connecticut began offering a minor in cannabis cultivation this semester as part of a larger movement across the university, as UConn has made strides in establishing itself as a national presence in the field of cannabis research. Housed under the College of Agriculture, Health and Natural Resources, the program requires 15 credits including courses in cannabis horticulture and production, as well as one course on Pest Management and Plant/Soil Cultivation.  

The Daily Campus Editorial Board commends UConn’s involvement in destigmatizing cannabis — which is still labeled a Schedule I substance — through research and academic courses. What’s crucial, however, is that programs such as the minor adequately address the often neglected history of American drug policies and, more importantly, ensure that programs such as these do not further instigate the harmful effects of the cannabis industry. 

The addition of courses relating to the historical ramifications of the American war on drugs into the curriculum is one possibility. Courses such as Critical Race Theory, Drugs and Society, Racial Disparities in Health or Race and Gender and U.S. Healthcare all offer insights not only into the historical and potential future consequences of industrialized cannabis production and distribution, but also into histories of racist and unequal policing and incarceration practices as well. The growth of the cannabis economy in Connecticut is a forward step in drug reformation and offers a new source of state revenue, and while programs such as these often yield future leaders in the field, it would be an injustice to omit education regarding the ongoing racial inequalities which plague the cannabis industry, specifically the lack of non-white representation in cannabis business owners across the country.  

Addressing racial inequities within the cannabis industry sets forth a standard for cannabis education and aligns with Connecticut advocates regarding equality within this emerging market. On April 20, a day associated with the celebration of cannabis, the CT CannaWarriors coalition rallied for a legalization effort that prioritizes the release of individuals imprisoned due to cannabis-related charges and the remediation of the U.S. justice system more broadly. The Editorial Board stresses this belief, as the legalization of cannabis cannot be wholly celebrated or actualized until the consequences of the war on drugs and drug-related offenses are rectified, primarily in communities of color who are disproportionately affected by drug enforcement.  

Further, any strides made in the cannabis space by public universities such as our own are diminished by the failure to decriminalize cannabis at a federal level. Until comprehensive legislation is passed through Congress, UConn’s potential impact on the industry is impacted by the threat of losing federal funding if it makes cannabis legal at a university level. Students who pursue the cannabis cultivation minor should direct the privilege accorded to them by standing with advocates of cannabis legalization or decriminalization on a federal level. Moreover, it is ironic that UConn conducts drug research — which is bound to increase profit margins for the university — while it continues to overfund its police department, demonstrating a lack of institutional self-awareness and a superficial approach to equity. UConn enriching itself and a predominantly white cannabis industry while failing to adopt a genuine commitment to racial and economic equity is tantamount to gentrification. The cannabis cultivation minor is an important opportunity to reject this trajectory. 

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