Cannabis | KUNC

Cannabis

Luke Runyon / KUNC

The coronavirus pandemic has forced a discussion across the country about whose work is essential, and whose isn't.

Forced to choose which businesses remain open or closed, governments that less than a decade ago deemed cannabis illegal are now treating access to it as essential during the crisis.

Starting this fall, a state university in Colorado will offer a bachelor's degree in the science of the cannabis plant, among the first programs of its kind in the nation.

Summer Kriegshauser is one of 150 students in the inaugural class of the University of Maryland, Baltimore's Master of Science in Medical Cannabis Science and Therapeutics, the first graduate program of its type in the country.

This will be Kriegshauser's second master's degree and she hopes it will offer her a chance to change careers.

It's still a mystery — what's causing the cluster of severe respiratory illnesses among people who've used e-cigarettes? The FDA says there have been at least 215 reported cases in 25 states.

Nearly three dozen of those cases are in New York state, and investigators there say they are now zeroing in on vitamin E as a possible culprit. Health officials say state lab tests detected high levels of vitamin E in cartridges of cannabis vaping products used by people who vaped and suffered serious lung damage.

Photo by Brantley Gutierrez

Denver-based band Nathaniel Rateliff & the Night Sweats is expanding its brand beyond the stage. The band is launching a special edition cannabis collection under Willie’s Reserve, a cannabis brand owned by country legend Willie Nelson.

It’s in chocolate, cocktails, soap, gummies and bath bombs. These days, it seems like you can buy cannabidiol, otherwise known as CBD, mixed in with just about every product imaginable.

CBD is a non-psychoactive compound found in cannabis plants. It’s supposed to make a user feel calm while relieving aches and pains. And CBD products are everywhere.

The Santa Rita Hills, nestled in Santa Barbara County, are ideal for pinot noir, a notoriously finicky grape. That's why Kathy Joseph came here to plant Fiddlestix Vineyard.

"The plants are over 20 years old, which comes through in the wines we make. The topography is just right; the proximity to the ocean is incredible," Joseph says. "Difficult to find a pinot noir district this good."

The Food and Drug Administration is holding its first public hearing on CBD, the cannabis extract that has quickly grown into a billion-dollar industry. Today's hearing will help officials determine how to regulate CBD products.

The compound can be extracted from marijuana or from hemp. It's promoted as a way to ease anxiety and inflammation – and it doesn't get people high because it doesn't contain THC, the psychoactive component of the cannabis plant.

Normally, a chief financial officer's job involves poring over balance sheets and bank statements. But in the pot business, the job still bears a lot of similarities to the illicit trade — transporting loads of cash under the watchful eye of big guys carrying lots of guns.

Just ask Tom DiGiovanni.

This chief financial officer and former Ernst & Young accountant leans into an unmarked armored van where there's a metal cage to protect the revenues for his company, Canndescent, from would-be thieves.

CERIA labels
Matt Bloom / KUNC

Inside a Denver bottling plant, Keith Villa watches as rows and rows of 10-ounce silver bottles whisk by, all filled with a golden-colored Belgian-style ale called Grainwave.

It looks and tastes like beer. But instead of alcohol, there's 5 milligrams of THC mixed inside. That's the psychoactive compound in marijuana that gets you high.