A public university located in one of California's prime pot-growing regions has formed an academic institute devoted to marijuana.
The Humboldt Institute for Interdisciplinary Marijuana Research at Humboldt State University plans to sponsor scholarly lectures and coordinate research among 11 faculty members from fields such as economics, geography, politics, psychology and sociology.
The Times-Standard of Eureka reports that one professor is studying recent campaigns to legalize marijuana, while another is investigating the environmental effects of pot cultivation.
"If anyone is going to have a marijuana institute, it really should be Humboldt State," economist Erick Eschker, the institute's co-chair, told the newspaper. Eschker is studying the connection between marijuana production and employment in the county.
The institute is probably the first dedicated to examining marijuana through the lens of multiple disciplines, according to sociologist Josh Meisel, who is leading the enterprise with Eschker. Humboldt faculty started discussing the idea in 2010 when California was preparing to vote on a bitterly contested ballot proposition that would have treated marijuana like alcohol.
"With these public discussions, there were a lot more questions than there were answers," Meisel said, adding that he and other faculty became interested in applying academic rigor to the economic, health and legal issues raised in eventually unsuccessful campaign.
Now that voters in Colorado and Washington have done what California would not, passing marijuana legalization measures this month, the institute has even more reason to exist. Politics professor Jason Plume is giving a lecture on the marijuana reform movement on Tuesday night, one of seven public talks the institute plans to host this year.
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