Temple Is Holding a Marijuana 101 Class Next Year

School of Media and Communication professor Linn Washington has developed the class with cannabis activist Chris Goldstein.

Next semester, Temple students will have a chance to take a class on a plant they may already be familiar with: marijuana.

But it’s not a class about how to best to enjoy the Three Kings strain. It’s about the plant itself — the difference between cannabis and hemp, the history of its cultivation, the effect it has on a human body, the history of its prohibition, its medical uses and its integration into pop culture. Temple School of Media and Communication professor Linn Washington has partnered with local marijuana activist and writer Chris Goldstein for the class.

“As an advocate, and as a writer, I keep running into what is kind of a knowledge gap,” Goldstein says. “People don’t get a basic education on marijuana in college. It touches on criminal justice, medicine, business, health care, pop culture, societal trends, but also deeply into politics and public policy, too.”

The class was originally intended solely for journalists. Plenty of reporters are asked to work on stories about marijuana, and Goldstein figured he could create a semester-long class that would give students entering the profession a solid background. But, once he began creating it with Washington, it evolved into something broader — Marijuana 101, the absolute basic course of everything you need to know about cannabis.

Goldstein says there are marijuana-related courses at about a dozen colleges and universities in the country. Temple’s is the first in the area, and one of the first on the East Coast. He hasn’t encountered any real opposition to it from anyone at Temple; Washington’s colleagues have been supportive of the new class, he says.

“The biggest challenge for me was that it’s a big topic, it’s really complex,” Goldstein says. “Figuring out how to give people an overview of this was tough.” He compared it to the meetings he runs with Philly NORML, where people come and ask questions about cannabis.

“A woman — she was probably in her 80s — once said to me after class, ‘You know, Chris, that was like when I was learning about my own body during the sexual revolution,’” he says. “People smoke pot all the time, and they don’t necessarily know why it works or what it does and all these different things about it. It’s important for people to understand that, especially if they’re going to be consumers.”

The class will meet on Tuesdays and Thursdays on Temple’s Center City campus. Goldstein says he and Washington are hoping for at least 50 students to enroll, but he expects interest will be high.

“Not only will the students get a good sense of the subject,” Goldstein says, “but there are some skills within it I hope to bring about, like data research and criminal justice investigation.”