This Valentines Day, UAA will bring cannabis to the kitchen

In the middle of spring semester, UAA’s culinary department will offer a 1-credit upper-division course on cooking with cannabis.

Cannabis leaf in Ketama, Morocco. Photo courtesy User: CuHKS, Wikimedia Commons, CC-BY-SA-4.0

Cannabasics is a hands-on culinary course running from Feb. 14 through March 2, open to all community members. 

The course covers proper cannabis terminology, techniques for decarboxylation and infusion, and utilization of the plant's anatomy.

CA A490 will be taught by local marijuana retailer, Bailey Stuart, co-owner of recreational dispensary Green Jar.

Originally, a three-week course consisting of six classes was offered in September to gauge interest. Stuart said a lack of advertisement was likely responsible for a cohort of only 18 students, most of whom were culinary students.

This semester's class was more publicly advertised with fliers posted around campus, posts on the UAA culinary department’s instagram page, and a promotion in the Green and Gold News on Jan. 11. 

This spring, Cannabasics has a capacity of 25 with the possibility of a duplicate class for a total of 50 if capacity is exceeded. The course is open to all students and community members over the age of 21.

Currently, marijuana is illegal on the federal level and classified as a Schedule 1 drug. Being that the university is federally funded, even academic research of cannabis must align with federal policies. 

UAA’s marijuana policy prohibits products with a THC content of .3% or more and the production of marijuana on campus. For this reason, cannabasics will only use hemp or CBD oil in labs. 

“We utilize hemp because hemp is federally legal, and it can be infused in the exact same manner as a flower that contains tetrahydrocannabinol or THC,” said Stuart. 

The curriculum was developed collaboratively by Stuart and other community industry members, such as UAA alumni and assistant professor, Riza Brown. Stuart said Brown started the collaboration process, which spanned about seven months.

Stuart opened the first recreational dispensary in the Matanuska-Susitna Borough in 2017. Since then, she has been a trailblazer for the local industry by attending all Mat-Su council meetings, helping to develop collegiate curriculum, and doing community outreach on marijuana.

“One of the things I like to do is go into some of the retirement homes and speak on cannabis because especially with those later generations, they harbor a lot of stigma.”

Despite the stigma that can exist among older generations, Alaska is one of the most weed-friendly states in the country. It was one of the first few states to legalize marijuana and generally consumes a heavy amount of the plant. 

A report by Politico found Alaska to have the highest rate of dispensaries per capita of any state in the country. In state rankings of overall marijuana use, CBS News reported Alaska came in first with a percentage of 16.29% of residents who smoke weed.

Still, Stuart saw a need for education on the plant and was excited to create a curriculum that would propel that. She hopes to “generate a new workforce that's formally educated so that our industry can actually thrive,” she said.

Many students showed interest in the cannabis industry, Stuart said. “A few of my students came into my shop. I teach strongly that you need to be able to smell cannabis. It speaks to the body through terpenes.”

Stuart is in the finishing stages of opening a second dispensary in Anchorage and looks forward to teaching students again. 

“It was probably the most rewarding thing I've done in my life.”

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