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Cannabis Journalism Class At DU Tackles A Trailblazing Trend

DENVER (CBS4) - I instantly feel a laid back vibe when sitting in on this unique class at the University of Denver. The college course is called Cannabis Journalism: reporting and covering the new normal. Students feel as though they can pitch ideas and ask questions without feeling judged.

Economics major Kevin Bartlett says he is taking this class to better understand a trailblazing trend. The 23-year-old soon-to-be graduate says "it's still very taboo around the rest of country. In Colorado, it's more discussed and having a more responsible conversation can open doors to more conversation and a better understanding."

Being a reporter who studied journalism in college, I (of course) am curious about how this avant-garde class gets by in academia. Professor Andrew Matranga developed the one week, intense course and told me the class even shocks him at times.

"I grew up in Chicago in the mid-90s and this is not something I could ever imagine teaching," Matranga said.

CANNABIS TEASEProfessor Andrew Matranga
Professor Andrew Matranga (credit: CBS)

But he is and the class could produce a new wave of journalists who are navigating uncharted waters.

"We are going to be open and transparent here with our stories, not judge and encourage good stories and good journalism" Matranga said.

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Three sources fill Matranga's syllabus including a book of recent marijuana headlines. As cannabis sales balloon, legislation struggles to keep pace offering aspiring journalists almost too many angles of which to write.

Matranga told me it is tough to keep up with reporting on the growing industry.

"A lot of this is even over my head … we have concentrates and edibles. There are people who are industry experts who can tell them far better than I can about the industry."

That's why Matranga introduces students to experts in the field like Denver Post Marijuana Editor Ricardo Baca.

Baca says this about Colorado: "This is the absolutely Ground Zero for this beat still. It is fun to be here and in the right place at the right time. We only have a certain amount of time being that world leader."

I asked Baca if he is seeing more opportunities as The Cannabist journalist and he says the opportunities are endless.

You may be wondering how students "prepare" for this line of study. Some say they smoke marijuana, others say they do not. Some say it helps them understand class better if they have marijuana experience while others say an unbiased perspective (which means being a non-pot smoker) is best. Matranga assures critics his syllabus does not include smoking or ingesting marijuana as a prerequisite for class.

Matranga hopes to add more cannabis classes to the curriculum at DU in the near future.

Britt Moreno anchors the CBS4 morning and noon newscasts and is the Wednesday's Child reporter. She loves hearing from viewers. Connect with her on Facebook or Twitter @brittmorenotv.

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