top of page

Cannabis: Biology, Society and Industry 2020

Syllabus: Plant Science 4190

Cannabis: Biology, Society and Industry



Day/Time/Room:  Lecture: MW  2:55 – 4:10P  Riley-Robb, Rm 125


Letter grade only; 3 Credits


Instructor:     Carlyn S. Buckler, PhD

                        Office: 118 Plant Science

                        Office hours: Noon – 1:00 PM Wednesday and by appointment


                        P:  607.255.3666


"It is a capital mistake to theorize before one has data. Insensibly one begins to twist facts to suit theories, instead of theories to suit facts"
                                                                                      A. Conan Doyle `A Scandal in Bohemia'.


I. General Information:


According to New Frontier Data (2019), the cannabis industry in the US – including medical marijuana and hemp – for 2016 was $6.7B, and is expected to grow to over $26B by 2025. reports (2018) that 25 out of every 10,000 jobs currently listed are related to the cannabis industry, and from April to May 2018, there was a 50% jump in the number of related job listings, currently totally over 5000 job openings. The potential profitability is promising, but the economic and industrial development obstacles are significant and include establishing better agricultural supply chains, breeding research to develop more vigorous and disease resistant cultivars, refining/improving farming practices, policy and legal issues, and identifying new markets. This course will explore the history, culture, pharmacology, breeding, horticulture, policy and legal challenges in an effort to inform and stimulate new ideas, motivating future plant breeders, horticulturists, farmers, pharmacologists, and entrepreneurs to be successful in the industry. This class is not intended to prepare students in the cultivation of marijuana, which is a Drug Enforcement Agency Schedule 1 controlled substance.

II. Class Structure: This course will include guest speakers, lectures, and group projects/assignments. 



   Class participation in discussions is very important, and a significant part of your grade. 

  The metrics for quality of input are that each participant will:


1.   remain open minded, giving all the benefit of the doubt

2.  come to class able to discuss the readings/media assigned

         All comments are:

3.  respectful and kind

4.  concise

5.  helpful to the discussion




Exact expectations for each project will be covered in class. Rubrics will be provided for projects, and housed in the Google Drive folder, "Cannabis Resources"

 - Project: Impact/Policy Statement = 50 points 

Draft Due: 23 Oct:

Final Due 06 Nov

 - Attendance/Reading Assignments = 50 points total 

 - Final Project = 100 points. Final projects will be tailored to your major; e.g., plant science folks may do an interview and paper on someone doing research on the future of breeding; someone in the Dyson school may write an impact statement regarding some aspect of the business; someone interested in law/regulation might do a policy paper, etc. Your project needs to be accepted by Dr. Buckler before you start.  The project should reflect learning from speakers and resources from the course.

Due 02 December

Reading/Media Assignments: By 8:00AM ET the day of class please up load a Word Doc of your thoughts on the readings to your Google Drive Folder, to include:

1.  Are the authors credible? Why/Why Not?

2. What did you think about the information? What did you learn? Any questions, thoughts?


Not a tome here, please – just c.150-200 words or so is more than fine for the whole assignment for a given class meeting. We want to see where you are with the content, and what we need to focus on in class discussions. You will be graded on these assignments based on the parameters above.

Google Drive Files (resources and rubrics) are HERE

III.  Inclusivity Statement


We understand that the student body represents a rich variety of backgrounds and perspectives. The School of Integrative Plant Science is committed to providing an atmosphere for learning that respects diversity. While working together to build this community we ask all members to:

 - share their unique experiences, values and beliefs

 - be open to the views of others 

 - honor the uniqueness of their colleagues

 - appreciate the opportunity that we have to learn from each other in this community

 - value each other’s opinions and communicate in a respectful manner

 - keep confidential discussions that the community has of a personal (or professional) nature 

 - use this opportunity together to discuss ways in which we can create an inclusive environment in this course and across the Cornell community.


Please be respectful of the classroom learning environment and your fellow students by: 

  - turning your cell phones to “silent” in class, 

  - not texting, e-mailing or doing other work during class, 

  - arriving on time and not leaving early, 

  - consuming food outside of class/lab time, and 

  - using your laptop, if at all, only for note taking.



IV. Course Learning Outcomes: 

Upon successful completion of this course, students will be able to:


  1. describe the historical importance of the industry in the development of medicines, textiles, paper, construction materials, foods, as well as cultural, religious and recreational uses

  2. identify, assess and utilize a wide variety of reliable sources of information 

  3. articulate through writing and presentation assignments basic horticultural and farming best practices for cultivation

  4. demonstrate ability to work in a collaborative, multidisciplinary environment to develop an understanding of the opportunities and challenges in the industry today and in the future.  

V.  Schedule:


Week 1 -Introduction

- Wednesday, 04 September 2020:    Introduction 

  • Overview of the course; discussion of outcomes; 

  • What is “Cannabis”? Varieties, Controversies, and Uses



Week 2:  Early History and Domestication


- Monday, 09 September 2020: History -


- Wednesday, 11 September 2019:  Domestication 

  • Wild vs. domesticated lines

  • Climate Limitations

  • Seed distribution agents, allelopathy

  • Selection and Cultivars



Week 3:  AgriTech and Culture

– Monday, 16 September 2020: Multiple uses for hemp - Jacob Toth, Graduate Student, L. Smart Lab, Cornell AgriTech

  • Historical use of hemp for fiber - Ancient History to Modern Times

  • Hemp for Victory movie; Fiber use and production today

  • Uses for hempseed oil

  • Uses for hemp protein


– Wednesday, 18 September 2020:  Culture​

  • Modern Culture

  • Misunderstandings

  • Talk about: “The Grass is Greener” (Netflix)




Week 4:  Cultivation and Disease Challenges 


– Monday, 23 September 2020:  Hemp cultivation methods - Jacob Toth, Graduate Student, L. Smart Lab, Cornell AgriTech

  • Growing hemp for grain, combine harvesting

  • Growing hemp for fiber, retting and decortication

  • Growing hemp for CBD – field, greenhouse, warehouse


– Wednesday, 25 Sept 2020:  Deciphering Disease Challenges and Potential Solutions for Sustainable Hemp Production.


Week 5 - Pharmacology 


– Monday, 30 September 2020: Pharmacology: CBD and THC. Emily E. Leppien, PharmD, BCPS, Assistant Professor, Pharmaceutical Science, Binghamton University

  • THC and CBD

  • Metabolic Pathways, Secondary Metabolites

  • Physiological and Pharmacological Effects

Reading/Media Assignment:  National Academy Press: The Health Effects of Cannabis and Cannabinoids: The Current State of Evidence and Recommendation for Research. Read and write about pgs 43-56, AND pgs, 85-126. Due by 8AM ET to your Google Drive folder

Document available for free download:


 – Wednesday, 02 October 2020: Pharmacology: Research and Drug Approval. Emily E. Leppien, PharmD, BCPS, Assistant Professor, Pharmaceutical Science, Binghamton University

  • Challenges for Pharmacological Research

  • Drug Approval Process

Reading/Media Assignment:  National Academy Press: The Health Effects of Cannabis and Cannabinoids: The Current State of Evidence and Recommendation for Research. Read and write about any three of the chapters from Part III: Other Health Effects, pages 141 - 352.  Due by 8:00AM ET in your Google Drive Folder.

Document available for free download:




Week 6 - Horticulture and Breeding


– Monday, 07 October 2020:   Plant Biology. Larry Smart, Professor, Horticulture, Cornell AgriTech

  • Male and Female floral development

  • Monoecious and dioecious sex determination

  • Pollination studies  

  • Environmental influences on sex

  • Systems for the cultivation of females 

  • Use of hormones to manipulate sex

  • Cloning

Reading/Media Assignment:  Lubell, Jessica D., and Mark H. Brand. (2018) Foliar Sprays of Silver Thiosulfate Produce Male Flowers on Female Hemp Plants, HortTechnology  

Can be found here - 

Due by 8:00AM ET in your Google Drive Folder.


– Wednesday, 09 October 2020:   Hemp breeding. Larry Smart, Professor, Horticulture, Cornell AgriTech

  • Establishing an ideotype

  • Population level selection and heterozygosity

  • Inbreeding, inbreeding depression, and hybrid vigor

  • Controlling pollination

  • Diversity of Cannabis spp.

  • Marker systems for hemp trait selection

  • Genomic selection

  • Tissue culture and transformation





– Wednesday, 16 October 2020: Growing a Business  

Julio Casado, Founding Partner, Lenni Group




Week 8 Final Projects Discussion: Economics and Policy


– Monday, 21 October 2020: Discussion of Policy Paper, final projects; Q & A More on CBD.

Reading/Media Assignment: "Can CBD Really Do All That?" Valezquez-Manoff, NYTimes, May, 2019. Found HERE

Write at least 300 words, answering the questions:

1.  Are the authors credible? Why/Why Not?

2. What did you think about the information?

What did you learn?

Any questions, thoughts?

Due by 8:00AM ET in your Google Drive Folder

-  Wednesday, 23 October 2020:  Economics and Policy 

John Hudak, Brookings Institute, Deputy Director of the Center for Effective Public Management

First Draft of Policy Paper due 8:00AM in your Google Drive Folder





Week 9 - SMART and Cannabis in Veterinary Science

– Monday, 28 October 2020: SMART:  Nadir Pearson – Cannabis Entrepreneur and Activist. Founder of the Student Marijuana Alliance for Research and Talk at Brown University


– Wednesday, 30 October 2019:  Cannabinoids in Veterinary Science: Leni Kaplan, DVM, Cornell Veterinary Science




Week 10 - Industry


– Monday, 04 and Wednesday, 06 November:  Adam Berk, Chief Executive Officer, Stem Holdings, Inc.

Mr. Berk will be with us Monday and Wednesday. There will also be opportunities to meet with him outside class. 

  • Products and Supply Chains

  • Projected Sales; Current Revenues

  • Industry/Research/Farming Collaboration

Turn in your Policy Paper to your Google Drive Folder by 8:00AM


Week 11 –  Culture and Misunderstandings; Media Relations


– Monday, 11 November 2020:  Q & A: Talk about Guest Speakers, Misunderstandings and Culture.

Final Project questions...


– Wednesday, 13 November 2019:  Folks from Cornell Media Relations will come and talk about how to interact with the media - this is an important one, folks!



Week 12 –  Cannabis Law and Industry

– Monday, 18 November 2019:  Legal Considerations: 

  • History of Legal Issues for Research and Industry

  • Intellectual Property

  • Legal for business

- Wednesday, 20 November 2019 - Industry





Week 13 – Women in Cannabis


- Monday, 25 November 2019 – Industry

                     Jen Drake – COO, Ayr Strategies

  • The “other” business 

  • Role of public and Private Businesses 

  • Social Justice 

  • Equality Trends in the Business.






Week 14 –  Finals




VI. Academic Integrity


Each student in this course is expected to abide by the Cornell University Code of Academic Integrity. Any work submitted by a student in this course for academic credit will be the student’s own work, original to this course. Students agree that by taking this course all required writing assignments may be subject to submission for textual similarity review to for the detection of plagiarism. All submitted papers will be included as source documents in the reference database solely for the purpose of detecting plagiarism of such papers. Use of the service is subject to the Usage Policy posted on the site.

You are encouraged to study together and to discuss information and concepts covered in lecture and the sections with other students. You can give "consulting" help to or receive "consulting" help from such students. However, this permissible cooperation should never involve one student having possession of a copy of all or part of work done by someone else, in the form of an e-mail, an e-mail attachment file, a diskette, or a hard copy. 


Should copying occur, both the student who copied work from another student and the student who gave material to be copied will both automatically receive a zero for the assignment. Penalty for violation of this Code can also be extended to include failure of the course and University disciplinary action. 



VII. Accommodations for Students with Disabilities


In compliance with the Cornell University policy and equal access laws, I am available to discuss appropriate academic accommodations that may be required for student with disabilities. Requests for academic accommodations are to be made during the first three weeks of the semester, except for unusual circumstances, so arrangements can be made. Students are encouraged to register with Student Disability Services to verify their eligibility for appropriate accommodations.

bottom of page