Marijuana in the Media is halfway through its first semester as a course offered through Temple University’s School of Media and Communication. The 17 undergraduate students spend Tuesdays and Thursdays examining news coverage, and the history and science of marijuana. Only occasionally do they hear stories about recreational use, and it’s usually from their instructor Goldstein, a legalization advocate for marijuana and columnist for Philly420.
“It’s not like we’re giggling,” said Henry Savage, a sophomore journalism major, “We don’t even call it weed or pot. It’s cannabis or marijuana or sativa. We take it very seriously, and since we’ve been doing that the class has just been like- we’ve been getting a lot out of the class.”
Temple isn’t the first university to debut a course on marijuana. As of 2015 the University of Denver’s law school has had a class called Representing the Marijuana Client, and Ohio State started offering Marijuana Law, Policy and Reform the same year. However, the course Goldstein and Washington designed is the first of its kind in the state. Whether or not it became a reality this semester all depended on how many students enrolled, and, unsurprisingly, enough college students wanted to learn about pot that the course is now in motion.
Obviously, students getting college credits to learn about a schedule one drug is already pretty nontraditional, but aside from the content, Marijuana in the Media runs like any other special topics journalism course. And because of the emphasis of discussion over homework, the instructors take attendance every class. It contributes largely to the students’ grades, but Goldstein stressed the importance of showing up not just for his class, but also for working journalists:
“They say people who show up run the world. Well certainly people who show up get to report on the world.”
Students also learn how to use PubMed, a medical research database, and practice crafting articles from the information they find. They have three projects throughout the semester:
- Report on marijuana arrests
- Blog post examining local cannabis-related topic
- Mock conference exercises (students pick topics they think deserve more media coverage)
Despite Goldstein’s unabashedly pro-marijuana attitude, Savage said he thinks he and his classmates are getting a balanced look at the history, science and legality of marijuana, as well as opportunities to express their opinions on its different uses.