Two new classes built around marijuana are being offered at Tacoma Community College this winter.
The classes, part of the school’s continuing education program, offer insights into the history, science and industry of cannabis.
“I’ll just be presenting what we know and pointing out what we don’t know about cannabis,” said instructor Lukas Barfield. He is a Tacoma-based cannabis researcher and writer.
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The first two sessions of each course are the same and cover the history and science of cannabis.
The third session in the industry course covers getting a job in cannabis.
“What are the different jobs? What skills do you actually need to know,” Barfield said.
The third session in the health course covers medicinal uses.
“I will be presenting the most up to date research and also some of the things you want to watch out for,” Barfield said. He’ll also instruct on safe storage and keeping marijuana away from children.
In addition to Barfield’s lectures the course includes guest speakers, he said.
Barfield has a master’s degree in education and is a medical marijuana patient. He’s taught math at the middle school and college level.
This is his first time teaching a cannabis course.
Barfield pitched the idea to Zacharé Rogue Daugharty, TCC’s program coordinator for continuing education.
Daugharty said legal marijuana is where the computer or espresso industries were when they were coming of age.
“I don’t think anyone thought 30 to 40 years ago that coffee would be the industry it is now,” Daugharty said. “I’ve been wanting to see if we could put a course together with this subject matter.”
The industry course begins Jan. 19 at the Tacoma campus and the health class starts Jan. 23 at the Gig Harbor campus.
Both courses cost $89 each.
While the TCC courses are believed to be the first cannabis classes at a public college or university in Pierce County, they aren’t the first in the state.
The Cannabis Institute at Seattle Central College offers a “Medical Marijuana Consultant Certificate Program,” approved by the state Department of Health.
The institute, which started up in 2016, currently offers seven course, according to founder Trey Reckling. Along with Clark College and now TCC they appear to be the only public higher institutions offering cannabis courses.
“They are hard to come by when it comes to accredited institutions,” Reckling said. “That’s where we hope to change the game.”
In Washington, cannabis sales exceeded $1.3 billion in 2017. In addition, medical marijuana is increasing in popularity.
With that much money flowing and public interest high, it might seem odd that the state’s colleges and universities have largely been ignoring the subject.
The reason, Reckling said, could be a fear of losing federal accreditation.
Continuing education programs offers colleges the ability to get around those concerns, Reckling said.
“That’s a big part of what is at play in the minds of administrators,” he said.
Some colleges around the nation have started offering courses in cannabis, but they remain few, according to Forbes magazine.
“It could just as well be a supply-demand issue — colleges might be concerned that the classes wouldn’t have a high enough enrollment to justify the cost,” said Laura McDowell, a spokeswoman for the Washington State Board for Community and Technical Colleges.