Clark College is one of the first schools in the Northwest to offer a class specifically about marijuana, with HLTH 280: Cannabis and Health.
This two-credit class began Fall 2015 as an elective, structured around online articles, videos and lecture instead of a traditional textbook.
Health instructor Kristen Myklebust opened the class after a year of intense research, planning and reading everything she could about the subject. The class reached the maximum capacity of 30 students during the first day of Fall registration.
Myklebust said the dean of Business and Health Science at the time, Blake Bowers, floated the idea for the class in Fall 2014 when cannabis sales were just beginning. At the time, she was teaching HLTH 100: Food and Your Health, and said she wanted to “mix things up.”
“Heck yeah, I want to teach that class!” Myklebust said was her first thought. “I’m a parent, and I want to learn everything that I can so I can parent accordingly.”
The syllabus states that students will compare marijuana and hemp, examine peer-reviewed research findings for medicinal and recreational use, discuss local legalization issues and develop strategies to improve health.
Nicholas Dakota, a former HLTH 280 student, said he took the class because he was intrigued about the legality of the drug. Dakota said the class taught him a lot of new information.
“I’m a user and I have to protect myself,” Dakota said.
Kristi Weeks, policy counsel member at the Washington State Department of Health, said there is a lot of misguided information about cannabis, and it is crucial for people to understand the state’s legislative measures.
“When the I-502 initiative first passed, we were astounded by how many people didn’t know the age you could legally use marijuana, or that you cannot use it in public,” Weeks said. “A class that can accurately teach the law is a great thing.”
Dakota agreed and highly recommended the class, even to non-users, because it was informative and taught without bias.
The class attracts students of any age, including underage Running Start students, and Myklebust said her teaching is cognizant of that.
Megan Streeter, Clark County’s PREVENT! Substance Abuse Prevention Coalition coordinator, said she was supportive of the class. She stressed that talking to young people about drugs has to be factual and not about trying to scare them.
“It’s not about fear mongering,” Streeter said. “You can’t scare people into doing what you want.”
Myklebust, who said she does not use marijuana, sifts through research to find current, factual evidence for students that doesn’t show bias to use or not use the drug. She wants to give students enough information for them to make their own informed decision.
Chris Wilson, a student who took the class in Fall, said the only thing he didn’t like was the class not counting as a health credit.
After the success of the first quarter, Myklebust presented the class to the Clark College Curriculum Committee on Feb. 1 to make HLTH 280 count as a health credit. She said some committee members were angered that Clark eliminated classes like French and German in the ongoing $2.2 million budget cuts, while a cannabis class was allowed to stay.
Cannabis and Health passed through the curriculum committee on Feb. 15 and will now be an accredited health class as HLTH 212 starting Fall 2016.
Myklebust, who has taught at Clark for five years, devotes her free time to updating the curriculum as there are many aspects to the topic that she deems “absolutely fascinating.”
“There are so many rabbit holes to go down and I am just getting started,” Myklebust said.