Colorado Harvest Company CEO Tim Cullen holds a cannabis leaf in his facility in Denver. PA is in the process of rolling out its medical marijuana program.

Colorado Harvest Company CEO Tim Cullen holds a cannabis leaf in his facility in Denver. PA is in the process of rolling out its medical marijuana program.

Andy Colwell for Billy Penn

Weed 101: Inside Temple University’s Marijuana in the Media class

“This is NOT a ‘How To’ course instructing students on how to grow cannabis,” the syllabus reads.

Colorado Harvest Company CEO Tim Cullen holds a cannabis leaf in his facility in Denver. PA is in the process of rolling out its medical marijuana program.

Colorado Harvest Company CEO Tim Cullen holds a cannabis leaf in his facility in Denver. PA is in the process of rolling out its medical marijuana program.

Andy Colwell for Billy Penn

Stoned sex requires extra lube.

That was one takeaway from the Marijuana in the Media’s class on Valentine’s Day. But aside from getting a little festive around the holidays, everyone involved — instructors Chris Goldstein and Linn Washington and students — insists they’re taking this class seriously.

That session covered the birds, the bees and the buds. Washington and Goldstein surprised students with their first “fun” lecture, blowing through every aspect of how getting high affects sex and relationships — from changes in intimacy to more physical quandaries.

The students, who have been talking about pot in a classroom setting for almost two months in the basement of Temple’s communications building, didn’t giggle when their instructors started talking about sexual pleasure or even mucous membranes (which dry your eyes and other organs out when you get high).

The lecture wasn’t any more explicit than a human sexuality course. Before Goldstein delved into the scientific aspects of pre-coital cannabis use, Washington lectured students on the history behind the stereotype of the sex-crazed pothead — from 1970s reefer madness to current pop culture figures like Miley Cyrus and Rihanna flaunting both their sexuality and their marijuana use.

A poster Linn Washington showed his Marijuana in the Media class while explaining the stereotype of the sex-crazed stoner.

A poster Linn Washington showed his Marijuana in the Media class while explaining the stereotype of the sex-crazed stoner.

Marijuana in the Media is halfway through its first semester as a course offered through Temple University’s School of Media and Communication. The 17 undergraduate students spend Tuesdays and Thursdays examining news coverage, and the history and science of marijuana. Only occasionally do they hear stories about recreational use, and it’s usually from their instructor Goldstein, a legalization advocate for marijuana and columnist for Philly420.

“It’s not like we’re giggling,” said Henry Savage, a sophomore journalism major, “We don’t even call it weed or pot. It’s cannabis or marijuana or sativa. We take it very seriously, and since we’ve been doing that the class has just been like- we’ve been getting a lot out of the class.”

Senior Zoe Rasmussen said, “Everyone has this mutual kind of uncomfortable feeling about being in class and saying, ‘Hey, I’ve done this.’”

But, she added, “We all take it really seriously and we all do our work.”

Temple isn’t the first university to debut a course on marijuana. As of 2015 the University of Denver’s law school has had a class called Representing the Marijuana Client, and Ohio State started offering Marijuana Law, Policy and Reform the same year. However, the course Goldstein and Washington designed is the first of its kind in the state. Whether or not it became a reality this semester all depended on how many students enrolled, and, unsurprisingly, enough college students wanted to learn about pot that the course is now in motion.

Though Marijuana in the Media is currently open to all students and the instructors are open about marijuana use, it’s still not a class on how to get high. The instructors even put a memo in the syllabus: “This is NOT a ‘How To’ course instructing students on how to grow cannabis, how to consume marijuana and/or how to open a weed related business.”

Still, Savage said they had never had a class “that fun.” The Valentine’s Day lecture was the first time the instructors had gone off the syllabus in favor of a nontraditional class period.

Chris Goldstein lectures on the relationship between sex and marijuana for a Valentine's Day themed class on Feb. 14.

Chris Goldstein lectures on the relationship between sex and marijuana for a Valentine's Day themed class on Feb. 14.

Obviously, students getting college credits to learn about a schedule one drug is already pretty nontraditional, but aside from the content, Marijuana in the Media runs like any other special topics journalism course. And because of the emphasis of discussion over homework, the instructors take attendance every class. It contributes largely to the students’ grades, but Goldstein stressed the importance of showing up not just for his class, but also for working journalists:

“They say people who show up run the world. Well certainly people who show up get to report on the world.”

Rasmussen added, “I think he’s still learning our names.”

Students’ only assignments are to bring in news articles somehow related to marijuana. They go around the room sharing what they brought in, and then Goldstein goes a little more in depth, often going off on a mini-lecture based on his own personal or journalistic experience. Washington calls his co-teacher “literally a walking encyclopedia” of weed.

Students also learn how to use PubMed, a medical research database, and practice crafting articles from the information they find. They have three projects throughout the semester:

  • Report on marijuana arrests
  • Blog post examining local cannabis-related topic
  • Mock conference exercises (students pick topics they think deserve more media coverage)

Despite Goldstein’s unabashedly pro-marijuana attitude, Savage said he thinks he and his classmates are getting a balanced look at the history, science and legality of marijuana, as well as opportunities to express their opinions on its different uses.

“He’ll show us both sides, but I can say that, yes, he’s definitely always going to have a pro-marijuana stance,” Savage said of Goldstein.

The class isn’t completely made up of marijuana advocates. Not every student necessarily believes in legalization, and most are vocal about their stances, which Goldstein says actually leads to a more interesting environment for discussion.

According to Washington, the whole point of creating the class was to expose students to information — including misinformation — surrounding cannabis. He used the example of the Nixon administration spreading false information about marijuana in the late ‘60s to explain the necessity of thoroughly examining all available material surrounding the drug. The first couple weeks of the semester the class coincided with protesters sitting on the walls of Rittenhouse Square Park smoking joints in defiance of the short-lived wall-sitting ban.

Linn Washington shows students an article on cannabis from the Philadelphia Bar Reporter.

Linn Washington shows students an article on cannabis from the Philadelphia Bar Reporter.

Though the class is heavily focused on the media, both Rasmussen and Savage would still recommend students from any major take the course if they’re interested in learning more about cannabis.

“I’m still taking so much from this class, and [Goldstein] recognizes that we’re not journalism students,” Rasmussen said. “For the first few weeks he referred to me as ‘advertising,’ and it’s interesting because all of our majors actually play a lot into it.”

As for the future of Marijuana in the Media, Goldstein says he’s ready to keep expanding. It’s already on track to have a bigger classroom for the fall semester, and eventually, Goldstein would like to see the School of Media and Communication really teach marijuana journalism as a program. He already runs a Twitter account for the class, and he’d like to eventually expand to having a team of student bloggers covering marijuana locally, giving them an opportunity to gain experience in a subject he says is really becoming a coveted niche in many newsrooms.

“It’s not like writing for High Times anymore,” he explains. “It’s like producing stories for your local NBC or CBS station. It’s doing NPR work, it’s doing staff writing at either a weekly newspaper or a local website or magazine.”

And on April 20, even non-Temple students may get an opportunity to experience another non-traditional lecture. Goldstein and Washington are working on putting together a special class meeting in the atrium of Temple’s School of Media and Communication building. Goldstein said at the very least, former High Times Magazine Editor Steve Bloom will make a Skype appearance. They’re also hoping to secure a surprise celebrity guest, but he won’t elaborate any further at this point.

“I don’t want to tease anybody too hard here, but Linn and I know the people we’re leaning towards.”