Higher Education: Medgar Evers College Launches New Cannabis Minor Program

A new cannabis education program could take college students to new heights.

Higher Education: Medgar Evers College Launches New Cannabis Minor Program
(Image: Medgar Evers College)

A new cannabis education program could take college students to new heights.

Medgar Evers College, located in Crown Heights, has announced the launch of a new cannabis minor degree program. The first such program in the City University of New York (CUNY) system, the school’s leaders frame the program both as an opportunity to develop new leaders in the burgeoning industry and as an extension of the civil rights work of the college’s namesake.

“Oftentimes, communities of color are the last to benefit from emerging economic opportunities,” Dr. Patricia Ramsey, president of Medgar Evers College, said. “The science faculty and the business faculty collaborated in developing the minor in cannabis education, thus exposing the students to the science, health, technical and business aspects of this new industry.”

The announcement of the course comes after the New York State legislature voted in March to legalize recreational marijuana, after years of failed attempts.

Students can now enroll in “Introduction to the World of Cannabis,” a prerequisite course for many of the other courses in this program. This course is designed to study “the intersectional nature of cannabis,” the college says, by examining the challenges and opportunities associated with institutional cannabis reform. Michael Zaytsev, who has written about the marijuana business and founded the networking community High NY, will lead the class.

“Whether you’re passionate about art, business, climate change, criminal justice reform, healthcare, or even pop culture, cannabis significantly impacts all of the above and more,” Zaytsev said.

In future semesters, students will be able to choose four of 13 newly-developed courses to earn a cannabis degree minor in one of four different tracks, including focuses on cannabis cultivation and laboratory sciences. The courses are open to students at all CUNY campuses.

The school hopes the program can also serve as a resource for policymakers through its instructors as well as with industry partners like the cannabis leadership organization Women Grow, the Cookies cannabis brand, and the Webber Wild Impact Fund, among others.

The program was designed by a Cannabis Education Taskforce assembled by the school, and is housed in the Department of Chemistry and Environmental Science. Taskforce members said they were aware of the significance of launching the program at Medgar Evers College, a Predominantly Black Institution located in a neighborhood that has born the brunt of the nation’s war on drugs.

“The central tenet of this entire program is to achieve targeted outcomes that will elevate a community that has been sidelined, blocked out, stifled, alienated, and even forgotten because of the devastating and adverse impact of the U.S.’s historical war on drugs and associated cannabis policies,” said Dr. Alicia Reid, chair of the school’s Chemistry and Environmental Sciences department and a Taskforce member.

Though the recreational use of marijuana by people aged 21 and over has been legal in New York since March, the state’s legislation left many details of regulation—including how to regulate retail sales—up to a yet-to-be-created agency. To get things moving, the state must nominate and confirm members of a new five-person cannabis control board.

Governor Kathy Hochul has indicated that the confirmations will likely happen during a special legislative session taking place this week.