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‘Cannabis Studies’ program at St. Joseph’s University a ‘scandal,’ theologian says

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null / SJU undergraduate admissions via Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

Boston, Mass., Mar 10, 2023 / 09:45 am (CNA).

The Jesuit Catholic St. Joseph’s University in Philadelphia is now offering four certificates in “cannabis studies,” and one theologian is arguing that the degree program causes scandal. 

“The definition of scandal is action that leads another to sin, and the promotion of a certificate in Cannabis Studies will do exactly this, encouraging the further normalization of cannabis use, with a damaging impact on the health of body and soul,” Jared Staudt, a professor of systematic theology at the Augustine Institute, told CNA Thursday.

Those who enroll in the Philadelphia-based university’s new program will work toward one of four different marijuana certificates: Cannabis Compliance and Risk Management, Healthcare and Medicine, Business of Cannabis, or Cannabis Agriculture and Horticulture.

“For anyone considering a career in cannabis or hemp, specialist knowledge is the key to unlocking the industry’s most exciting opportunities,” the school’s website says. 

“The cannabis landscape is complex, ever-changing, and unique. This certificate will provide you with a clear understanding of the cannabis industry, how it got there, and where it’s going,” it says.

The school is offering three separate eight-week online courses for each certificate. 

A sample of the course offerings for the Business of Cannabis certificate includes: a course called Cannabis 101: History and Practice Across Industries, The Business of Cannabis I: Seed to Sale, and The Business of Cannabis II: Scaling Operations.

The website says the courses feature “expert instruction and interaction from top executives and entrepreneurs, board-certified doctors and lawyers, advanced professionals in engineering and agriculture, and policymakers.”

The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches that the use of drugs, “except on strictly therapeutic grounds, is a grave offense.” Pope Francis spoke out against the legalization of “recreational drugs” at the 2014 International Drug Enforcement Conference.

“Attempts, however limited, to legalize so-called ‘recreational drugs,’ are not only highly questionable from a legislative standpoint, but they fail to produce the desired effects,” the Holy Father said.

Staudt said: “I do not believe it is appropriate for a Catholic university to offer a Cannabis Studies certificate, because the Church teaches that the use of drugs constitutes a sin against the Fifth Commandment.”

“The impairment of mental functioning strikes at the very heart of our humanity and capacity for free, rational action. I know that many people argue that cannabis use is therapeutic for pain, although this has not been established medically at this point, and there are numerous studies that cast doubt on its effectiveness in treating pain at all,” he said.

CNA reached out to the university for comment but did not receive a response prior to publication.

In Pennsylvania, medical marijuana was legalized in 2016. Pennsylvania’s Democratic governor Josh Shapiro has supported the legalization of marijuana for recreational use. In his most recent budget proposal, he included a hypothetical tax income, which showed legalized marijuana would bring in $16 million for the government in the first year, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer.

On the federal level, marijuana remains illegal for both recreational and medical reasons.

Staudt said that he thinks offering the degree is immoral because “it participates in the use of a harmful substance for either recreational or questionable medical purposes.”

“Financially there are difficulties because cannabis is still illegal under federal law, and there is still much illegal activity in the distribution of cannabis,” he added.


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