Temple’s marijuana class expands after high demand

Once limited to journalism majors, Chris Goldstein’s course is now open to the entire student body.

Andy Colwell / Billy Penn illustration

As Pennsylvania implements medical marijuana and New Jersey inches closer to recreational legalization, pot has become a burning topic at Temple University.

One year after the launch of the school’s “Marijuana in the Media” course, the class has expanded its reach. Instead of being a specialty elective in the Klein College of Media and Communication, the Spring 2018 class was opened to the entire student body.

Apparently it’s not just journalism majors who want to learn about weed. Who knew?

Per Chris Goldstein, the legalization advocate and 420 Philly columnist who teaches the course as an adjunct professor, the change was made due to growing interest from Temple students across various fields.

“This gives the opportunity for business students and even medical students to have a better understanding of the topic,” Goldstein said.

Even in past semesters, guest speakers included not just reporters and digital media specialists, but also scientists and activists, he said. And though the only official class members up to now were third and fourth year journalism students, several others had sat in and audited.

The idea to open the course up was embraced by Temple’s administration with no pushback, according to Goldstein. “My department seems happy to expand the class as interest grows.”

The North Philly school is on trend. Across the U.S., a dozen or more accredited universities offer some kind of cannabis-related course, including Harvard, UVM, the University of Denver, Ohio State and Vanderbilt. Northern Michigan University recently introduced it as a major under the moniker Medicinal Plant Chemistry. The four-year undergraduate degree program is the first of its kind in the country.

Temple hasn’t gotten that far yet, but Goldstein sees potential for more on-campus discussion around the topic. He’s working on putting together several general marijuana information forums in the coming year, which will take place outside the classroom.

Semi-obvious clarification: The class is not a how-to course.

A Billy Penn visit during the inaugural semester caught a Valentine’s Day lecture, which covered how how getting high affects sex and relationships. (FYI: Stoned sex requires extra lube.)

New this year is a goal to have students publish work on a public-facing blog that allows them to have a voice in the evolving discussion around marijuana use and decriminalization.

Some past students have already made contributions to public discourse, like Colton Shaw, who wrote a piece on last year’s big weed bust in Frankford for Philadelphia Weekly. Others have involved themselves in starting NORML and Students for Sensible Drug Policy chapters.

“One day in the future,” Goldstein said, “I’m sure that a few major network anchors will have bragging rights to an official ‘A’ in marijuana from Temple.”