Cooking With Cannabis Class in Colorado Fights Stigma, Promotes Education

One Denver professor shares insight regarding her cannabis class at Metropolitan State University of Denver (MSU), with the hope that it will help normalize careers in cannabis.

At MSU Denver, Affiliate Professor Shannon Donnelly teaches the class “Cannabis 101.” The course was only offered in Spring 2021, but began again on Nov. 8, 2022 according to the university’s class description.

Among learning about medical and recreational cannabis industries, the inner workings of a dispensary, various products being sold, and the legal aspects of cultivation, distribution, and possession are among the main topics of discussion.

In addition to this, students are taught about cannabis and CBD in a kitchen setting as well. According to Donnelly, who also holds the position of Cannabis Process Navigator for the city and county of Denver, explained that students will experiment with cooking using CBD. “We start with federally compliant CBD isolate which has no THC in it whatsoever,” Donnelly said.

While the class is a legitimate exploration of one of the nation’s most robust cannabis markets, Donnelly shared that not everyone agrees. “Most of the feedback when I tell people I’m cooking with cannabis is ‘no, that’s not actually happening,'” she said. “‘That’s not a real class for a college,’ and it’s like yes, it is, and your students can take it.”

Students are taught how to infuse vegetable oil with CBD, and after mastering that, they begin to experiment with different recipes. Donnelly told 9News that last week, they made barbecue shrimp and cornbread puree with a local chef.

The news outlet also spoke with one of the students, Liad Sherer who is pursuing a cybersecurity major, about why he chose to take the elective course. “I’m trying to just improve both as a cook as well as someone who enjoys cannabis and wants to know how to use it,” Sherer said. “I’d love to do this as a hobby, and I’d love to do this maybe as a part-time job.”

The class is an introduction to the many facets of the industry, which could help build early knowledge for possible careers. Roles such as a private chef, edibles creator, or budtending, are just a few of the many jobs that cannabis can create, and normalizing these jobs helps break down the stigma too. “That’s kind of this fun thing that I get to kind of help the students figure out,” she said. “Classes like this allow me and our students to realize there’s a pathway for them in this industry, which is what we need.”

Voters in Colorado approved recreational cannabis 10 years ago in November 2012. Since then, new data shows that the state has collected more than $2.2 billion in cannabis taxes and $13.4 billion in legal cannabis sales. According to the 2022 Leafly Jobs Report, Colorado offers 38,337 jobs (second only to California, which offers 83,607). The job market is thriving, and educated individuals are in high demand.

Colorado also recently saw a dip in its usual cannabis sales growth, month-by-month, according to data published in September 2022 for the month of June 2022. Medical marijuana sales sat at $19,235,656, which is a $34,534,293 decrease from numbers recorded for June 2021. Likewise, recreational cannabis sales only reached $127,157,358 in June, which is a decrease from $152,719,813 collected in June 2021. This downward trend is concerning to some industry members, who believe that it could lead to lay-offs, small shop closures, and the end of brands that can’t keep up.

Although Colorado is experiencing a downward trend in sales overall, newer cannabis markets are showing evidence of rapid growth. New Mexico adult-use sales went live in April 2022, and as of Nov. 7, the state has topped cannabis sales records for the last four months, through October, which netted $40 million. New Jersey’s adult-use sales also went into effect in April this year, and sold $80 million in cannabis within the first 10 weeks. In 2022 fiscal year earnings, the state of Nevada collected nearly $1 billion in sales.

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