Higher education: New L-A College class to study marijuana

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Professor Ike Levine of the University of Southern Maine’s Lewiston-Auburn College is teaching “Marijuana — Hemp, Hype, Hope and High” this fall. Levine is shown here in 2010. (Courtesy photo)

LEWISTON — Professor Ike Levine’s new class at the University of Southern Maine’s Lewiston-Auburn College this fall — “Marijuana — Hemp, Hype, Hope and High” — will be purely academic. Mostly.

“It’s not going to be a primer for people on how to grow pot. It’s not all about that,” Levine said. “It’s a little bit about that.”

And don’t expect any show-and-tell. Mostly.

“You can’t do medical (marijuana) or any marijuana research unless you have a special license from the feds,” Levine said. “Being that I don’t have that special license and not wanting to risk all my other grant dollars, let’s just say this: There will be no sampling on campus. There can be field trips. I’ll just leave it at that.”

The three-credit course, SCI 299, will focus on the science, history, use and modern legal issues surrounding marijuana. Levine, a professor of natural and applied sciences — he’s best-known for his algae research — had wanted to do a pot lecture and lab years ago when Maine first legalized medical marijuana, but university officials wouldn’t approve the lab component because the drug wasn’t allowed on campus.

Levine scrapped his plans. Then Maine voters in 2016 agreed to legalize recreational marijuana. Levine decided to resurrect his old idea for a class, minus the lab.

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“A lot of people are looking to go into it from a cultivation point of view, so I thought I would request approval for it last spring. It was approved as a science  elective,” Levine said.

It may be the first marijuana education class at USM.

But while the fall course sounds like a high time, only two or three students have signed up so far. There’s space for 30.

Without greater enrollment, the class could be canceled.

Levine thinks the problem is that the course is new and its description is buried under the heading, “Special topics.”

“You really have to look for it to find it,” he said.

He believes the class, which meets from 4 to 6:30 p.m. Mondays, will intrigue marijuana users, growers, people interested in the legalization debate or anyone looking to check out a college class or two.

“The dynamic debates we’ll have and discussions in the course, I think, will be invigorating for anyone who would like to try college,” he said. “They’re going to get a smattering of science, sociology, history and law.”

The course will include guest lecturers from medical marijuana companies.

Levine, for his part, has had some experience in the industry. He served on the board of directors for a southern Maine medical marijuana company. He was  involved with the state application process and helped the company with the science side of things, right up until he got a letter from the U.S. Attorney General’s Office.

“It says, ‘You know, it’s illegal federally and if we want to we could come take your house,'” Levine recalled. “That was the day I withdrew from being a board member of a medical marijuana company.”

He’s also had more personal experience. A bit. A while ago.

“I don’t know that I’ve gotten stoned in 30 years. It’s been a long time,” he said. “I don’t party now.”

ltice@sunjournal.com

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