Don’t bother bringing a bag of Doritos to Biology 140 this fall at Shoreline Community College.
The new class may be titled “The Science of Cannabis,” but instructor David Baldwin says the emphasis will be on the science surrounding cannabis, not how to cultivate it and there definitely won’t be any consumption.
“There will be some discussion of agricultural and horticultural issues,” said Baldwin, an associate faculty member who also teaches a course in drug discovery in the bioengineering department at the University of Washington. “This class will look at the active compounds of cannabis and how they affect human physiology.”
The three-credit science elective is intended for non-science majors and there is no lab requirement. The class will be taught as a hybrid, meaning some sessions will be online and some in class.
Baldwin said the class will also compare and contrast the effects of cannabis with alcohol, nicotine, and morphine. He’ll also include a look at genetics and medical uses of cannabis as well as historical perspectives on prohibition/legalization, and modern laws related to testing.
“Cannabis is very complex; different strains, different properties,” Baldwin said, noting that cannabis has three basic types; sativa, indica and ruderalis. Extensive cross-breeding, generally to increase psychoactive potency, complicates the picture, he said. “(They’re) building up the diversity of the plant and that goes with the diversity of humans. Every strain of marijuana is different and for the same reasons, every human is different.”
Baldwin said that much of the attention around cannabis is focused on THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), the substance generally identified as responsible for the marijuana high. However, there many more compounds in cannabis, perhaps hundreds, which may have different effects.
“Not all strains are psychoactive,” Baldwin said. “Hemp has almost no THC, less than a half-percent.”
One of the many cannabis compounds is cannabidiol, or CBD. CBD offers little or no psychoactive property, but does appear to have a therapeutic effect for those suffering from nerve disorders such as seizures and multiple sclerosis. This spring, a number of states have legalized or are loosening restrictions around CBD for medical use.
“It’s very clear that people don’t know much about (cannabis) because it has been illegal for so long,” Baldwin said. “This is an objective, scientific course on the facts that we do understand.”
Biology 140 – The Science of Cannabis: This class will investigate the active compounds of cannabis and their various effects on human physiology in contrast with alcohol, nicotine, and morphine. Included are genetics and medical uses of cannabis. Historical perspectives on prohibition/legalization, and modern laws related to testing will be included. Prerequisite: Successful completion of English 101. Three credits. 1-1:50 p.m., Tuesdays.
1998 – Marijuana for medical use is approved by Washington voters with I-692. 2012 – Marijuana for recreational use is approved by voters with I-502. The first stores opened in July, 2014.