From Feb. 14 to March 2, a Mat-Su based recreational marijuana retailer, Baily Stuart, will be partnering with the state-funded University of Alaska, Anchorage to provide Anchorage students with a hands-on, fully accredited course that includes teaching the basics of how to create THC laced edibles.
According to the UAA student newspaper, The Northern Light, the new “Cannabasics” class covers cannabis lingo, various uses for marijuana plants, and techniques for decarboxylation and infusion – the process that activates the psychoactive compound – THC – which causes one to feel high when it is digested or smoked. THC is most commonly activated with a lighter, vape pen, or when cooking up edibles such as brownies, cookies and gummies.
Stuart, who co-owns the recreation Green Jar pot shops in Palmer and Wasilla, has already taught one class to 18 students this past September. UAA is pushing her second class through its website and flyers around campus in hopes of attracting somewhere between 25 and 50 students, age 21 or older, the Northern Light reported.
Federal law, however, poses a few challenges on how the class is taught.
“Currently, marijuana is illegal on the federal level and classified as a Schedule 1 drug,” the Northern Light noted. “Being that the university is federally funded, even academic research of cannabis must align with federal policies.”
Stuart plans to use hemp or CBD oil in her teaching labs, neither of which can make a person high. Still, students will learn all the same steps required to make products that can, in fact, get them high.
“We utilize hemp because hemp is federally legal, and it can be infused in the exact same manner as a flower that contains tetrahydrocannabinol or THC,” Stuart told the Northern Light.
Stuart also stands to benefit from teaching the class. She opened the first recreational dispensary in the Mat-Su in 2017, and has plans for further expansion.
“One of the things I like to do is go into some of the retirement homes and speak on cannabis because especially with those later generations, they harbor a lot of stigma,” she told the Northern Light.
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Stuart also also wants to generate interest in “a new workforce that’s formally educated so that our industry can actually thrive,” she said.
It appears her plan is already reaping benefits from the initial class she taught this past fall.
“A few of my students came into my shop,” she said. “I teach strongly that you need to be able to smell cannabis. It speaks to the body through terpenes.”
Stuart is in the final stages of opening a new pot shop in Anchorage, and looks forward to teaching more students.
“It was probably the most rewarding thing I’ve done in my life,” she said.
While Stuart and other cannabis advocates are intent on expanding the use of marijuana across the state, Alaska already has the highest rate of dispensaries, per capita, of any state in America. According to Politico, Alaska has more than 20 marijuana dispensaries per 100,000 residents.
The state initially legalized recreational cannabis in 2014. By 2016 businesses were permitted to possess, grow, process, and transport up to six marijuana plants (three mature) to anyone 21 and older. In 2019, Alaska became the first state to permit on-site cannabis use in freestanding retail marijuana shops.
The rapid growth of the market, however, is not without controversy.
While supporters of legal marijuana claim it brings health benefits and increases tax revenue, critics of widespread marijuana consumption say it impairs short-term memory, increases engagement in risky behaviors and impairs driving.
Others warn that heavy and long-term cannabis use in adolescents carries substantial risks, including altered brain development, adverse psychological outcomes and mental illness. A recent report in Tablet notes that modern-day marijuana is unrecognizable to that of the 1960s. The now edible, vapeable, and drinkable cannabis-based products are far more potent than the weed of decades past.
“Addiction medicine doctors and relatives of addicts say it has become a hardcore drug, like cocaine or methamphetamines,” Tablet reports. “Chronic use leads to the same outcomes commonly associated with those harder substances: overdose, psychosis, suicidality. And yet it’s been marketed as a kind of elixir and sold like candy for grown-ups.”
Since widespread legalization of recreational marijuana is a relatively recent phenomenon, there is a shortage of long-term studies about the effects of increased consumption on society.