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Students in Pennsylvania’s K-12 Schools Are Learning About Hemp

January 12, 2021 11:30 am ET
Students in Pennsylvania’s K-12 Schools Are Learning About Hemp

One of the most strenuously argued points of the War on Drugs was that allowing any drugs to gain a toehold in society would create a slippery slope that would end in America’s children rotting their brains on narcotics. We know now that a lot of those fear tactics don’t hold up under scrutiny—cannabis doesn’t necessarily lead to the use of harder drugs, for example. But the fact remains that more research is needed on the effects of cannabis on a developing brain, and as states move to legalize, they are including legal age limits in much the same way as we do with the consumption of alcohol.

And yet, there are occasions that do exist when cannabis is welcome, and perhaps even necessary, in children’s lives. Cannabis has been shown to be very successful at helping people manage seizure disorders, and for children living with serious seizure conditions, it can make a big difference. Most children, though, won’t sample cannabis until they reach adulthood, if at all. But the state of Pennsylvania is making some changes to the way discussions about substances are had, incorporating open talks about cannabis into the public school curriculum.

What the Students Will See and Learn

Students in grades K-12 have the opportunity to attend the Pennsylvania Farm Show. The show will be held virtually, beginning January 9th and ending on the 16th. During that time, students will log in to see presentations by Pennsylvania farmers and to learn about the crops they grow and the benefits those crops offer.

One of the crops presented at this year’s show will be hemp. The students will be able to learn about hydroponics, an increasingly common way of growing plants in an aqueous solution without the use of soil. This is a technique that’s become more common in hemp cultivation, since it allows the plant to grow more quickly and produce more yield, and many hemp farmers are just starting out. The students will also get to learn about the benefits of hemp. Specifically, they’ll learn about hemp-made plastics, and why making plastic from sustainable materials like hemp is more environmentally sound

Cannabis in Pennsylvania

Children are able to learn things that might at one point have been kept from them, thanks to the signing of the 2018 Farm Bill and changing legal status of cannabis in Pennsylvania. The state is a cannabis-friendly state and although the state has a solid medical program, recreational laws are not far away. That means that a hemp industry has started to take shape, and there’s plenty of work for growers to do—which feeds naturally into a conversation surrounding the uses of hemp and the way it’s grown at the Farm Show.

Because cannabis hasn’t yet been fully legalized, it’s doubtful that students in Pennsylvania will get a comprehensive education about it anytime soon. Still, what they’re being offered represents tremendous progress toward normalization. Instead of fear tactics and misinformation, students in Pennsylvania are now being offered genuine facts about hemp—the growing industry and the plant itself. And hopefully, that will enable them to engage with the subject more easily when they’re older and it’s appropriate for them to explore whether or not they might benefit from cannabis in their own lives.

It can be tempting to withhold complicated subjects from kids. But the more we talk about cannabis, the more we can all see that there’s nothing to fear from it as long as it’s handled responsibly. Pennsylvania educators are doing a great job preparing their students for a future in which—hopefully—cannabis will be legal and available to all adults.  

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