When it comes to learning about cannabis, the options for a higher education have long been few and far between.
That’s why, earlier this year, City College of San Francisco made headlines when it announced details for the nation’s first Cannabis Associate of Arts Degree. Designed as a trio of three-unit classes, the program will reportedly explore the plant through the auspices of anthropology, sociology, and psychology in an effort overseen by the College’s Behavioral Sciences Department.
Now those offerings are set to expand further in the form of a newly-announced, industry-specific program from CCSF in which students can earn a “badge” in one of four areas of focus: manufacturing, public education, social equity, and business and finance.
Currently open for enrollment, these courses — like one devoted to California’s official cannabis track-and-trace program, METRC — are designed to provide an easy way for prospective professionals, especially those participating in equity programs, to learn about the industry.
Additionally, City College has also announced a forthcoming series of cannabis courses to be taught by notable culinary professionals.
Beginning this spring, non-credit classes from a trio of chefs will be offered via remote instruction as part of City College’s extension program. Accessible to students across the U.S., instruction will focus not only on the practicalities of cooking with cannabis but will also explore the cultural significance and backstory of select dishes as well.
“We don’t want to decontextualize cannabis,” Jennifer Dawgert-Carlin, chair of the Department of Behavioral Sciences, tells SF Weekly. “We’ve looked at some other training programs out there and they’ll train you on some of the nuts and bolts but they don’t look at cannabis as a social phenomenon. For us, we want to situate that training within the context of social issues. The idea is not to orphan cannabis from the world that it comes from or the one that it exists within today.”
Chef Mennlay Aggrey, author of “The Art of Weed Butter,” sounded palpably energized when discussing her plans to teach a course incorporating the intersectionality of cannabis and cuisine.
“I’m really excited by this opportunity,” Aggrey says. “I love that I get to nerd out a little bit more when it comes to the historical context, which is just where my brain likes to travel when it comes to this subject.”
Her class, which she’s tentatively titled “From West Africa to Mexico: Botanical and Culinary Ties to the Diaspora,” will walk students through the process of infusing cannabis into fats and butters before moving onto a recipe for an elevated version of jollof rice. By having her pupils work with cannabis in their own kitchens, Aggrey hopes to offer an enticing experience that’s also educational.
With those goals in mind, what better way to a student’s brain than through their stomach?
“On an academic level,” Aggrey adds, “I also just think it makes what we’re talking about way more impactful and easier to digest — no pun intended.”
Alongside Aggrey’s class, there will also be courses taught by James Beard-nominee Chef Miguel Trinidad and one from self-described “restaurant rat” Chef Amanda Jackson.
Made in the mold of the line cooks immortalized by Anthony Bourdain’s “Kitchen Confidential,” Jackson is a Humboldt transplant by way of South Georgia. Speaking with SF Weekly, she shared that, in her line of her work, cannabis is a staple of the gig.
“I love being a line cook,” Jackson explains, “and culturally, weed has just always been a part of that. Like, I’ve never worked in a kitchen where there wasn’t weed.”
For her City College course, Chef Jackson will be offering instruction on infusing food from the Black American diaspora with cannabis. Namechecking regional foodstuffs like Washington D.C.’s mumbo sauce or the corn-flour hybrid hot tamales of Mississippi, Jackson stressed that it’s both the commonalities and specific influences behind these dishes that fascinate her.
“We’re not necessarily visibly at the forefront of weed,” says Jackson, “but there are a lot of Black chefs out there right now, so a lot of my class will very specifically deal with the intersection of weed and Black food, which is literally taking place right now.”
As City College continues to grow their offerings, catering to both budding professionals as well as the more casually curious, the institution is quickly establishing itself as a premiere destination for cannabis academia of all stripes.
For Jackson, the whole thing is borderline surreal.
“I’m from a small town in South Georgia,” she says, “so this entire conversation is pretty insane. It’s wild, man. If you had told me any of this would be happening five years ago, I’d be like, ‘Am I high right now?’ But here we are and I’m so excited. More than anything, I think this is an opportunity to make the truth accessible.”