Roberta Marquette-Strain / Senior Staff Writer
Marijuana. The word alone can elicit cheers from those in favor or spark a heated debate from those opposed. It’s a controversial subject, but was quickly accepted into the atmosphere of Colorado since its legalization in 2014.
But the truth is, there’s not a lot of academic research on marijuana and how it affects politics, communities, schools, and so on. Western Honor students took notice and interest in this, and proposed an Honors class examining just that. “It’s a great opportunity to look at something so controversial from a purely academic lens,” Kari Commerford, the course professor said.
Commerford, who is also a Psychology professor, serves as the program director of the Gunnison County Substance Abuse Prevention Project which has given her a deeper understanding of the use of the substance, and its impact on the Gunnison community.
While searching for a course, Commerford realized that there seemed to be no literature on marijuana from an academic standpoint. She then came up with the main project for the class, to create an interdisciplinary examination of marijuana.
“It’s a literature review. It’s not taking a stance, it’s looking at all these different areas and compiling it all together to look at how complex marijuana is.” Commerford said. The book will feature a chapter written by each of the students in the class and will cover the effects of marijuana on everything from political to medicinal, spiritual to cultural, psychological to industrial and much more.
While the book originally was just for the purpose of the class, Commerford and her students began to wonder if they could publish the book, which would be the first of its kind. A proposal was written to the University Press of Colorado and Utah State University Press for the book to be published, and they are currently waiting for the proposal to be accepted. “I think we have an opportunity to become a school who is on the cutting edge in marijuana research,” Becca Ingram-Bryant said of the opportunity.
Ingram-Bryant was one of the main supporters for the class when it was in the process of being voted on by the Honors Student Advisory Board, who gets the final call on the customized honors classes for the semester. Ingram-Bryant explained, “If you want your education to be relevant, you can hardly get a more topical and contemporary subject than marijuana on college campuses.”
Besides the creation of a cutting-edge book, a select few of the students from the class have the opportunity to represent the Western’s Honors Program at two upcoming symposiums to present their research from the book.
Western has been participating in the 10th Annual Sociology Undergraduate Research Symposium, one of the two symposiums, for many years and hosted the event last year. The event allows sociology students to present their own research projects and is an opportunity for students to interact with other Sociology majors who all share the same passion. “It’s great to talk to people who have familiarity with the sociological perspective,” Ingram-Bryant said of the event.
The second event is the Rocky Mountain Honors Council Symposium. The symposium invited schools around Colorado to prepare a ten minute presentation about the legalization of marijuana without taking a stance. Which, luckily for Western students, they already have the research.
Their presentation will be judged by a panel of three on how well they presented the information. The event will take place at CSU Fort Collins, giving Western the chance to show off their Honors Program, and the academic rigor they have. “The contact person (at CSU) was very excited that we will be traveling all that way because typically they only get universities within an hour’s drive,” Commerford said, “It’s a good way to represent our school.”