Roanoke College launches first-of-its-kind ‘Cannabis Studies’ program

The program was announced Thursday

SALEM, Va. – Roanoke College is working to be at the forefront of innovation when it comes to a new program of study.

“This is an example of having a little bit of courage and trying to be out front and giving our faculty and our community the permission to be bold and innovative,” Roanoke College President Frank Shushok said.

Roanoke College announced a new cannabis studies program Thursday — the first of its kind within the Commonwealth.

Professor D.B. Poli led the initiative and says it opens up opportunities within the nearly $40 billion cannabis industry.

“The cannabis industry right now is what they call ‘seed to sale,’ and a lot of these businesses have to do everything from grow their own plants to making their own products, marketing their own products and then figuring out ways to sell those products,” Poli said.

Shushok understands the misconceptions that come along with the new program.

“I grew up at a time where there was a different narrative about this, a different understanding about all of this. I think there’s a huge generational gap,” he said.

Based on federal law, the college will only grow and study hemp varieties of the plant, which have no psychoactive effects, but they say it will still give students the training needed to be successful in the industry.

“Legally, it’s either hemp or marijuana, and that has to do with the THC component,” Poli said.

Students will also learn about the cannabis business, as well as how to market and sell products legally.

You can either choose the science or social justice and policy major.

“Programs for lawyers and lawmakers. When lawmakers tell you they don’t understand the terms, that makes me nervous for laws that then come from them,” Poli said.

Both majors and a minor launch in fall 2024.

About the Author:

Abbie Coleman officially joined the WSLS 10 News team in January 2023.