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Education & Research

FGCU Florida’s Great Cannabis University



Florida Gulf Coast University has been an established institution of the Fort Myers area for nearly 22 years–and in the Fall of 2018, they are planting seeds to grow in a new direction. 

In August of 2018, Dr. Martha Rosenthal and Professor Sam Walch teamed up to teach FGCU’s first course on cannabis, entitled WEED: Marijuana’s Impact on American Life. As the first of its kind to debut in the state of Florida, this course will be one of many offered under FGCU’s new Cannabis Pathway under the Integrated Studies program. The curriculum, currently being written by Dr. Martha, will offer education and internship opportunities to FGCU students interested in perusing a career in the US’s booming cannabis industry. 

This pathway hopes to set students on the right track for entering the fast-paced and multidimensional world of weed, arming them with the guidance and first-hand experience necessary to become informed and successful future industry leaders. 


  • FGCU opened its doors in 1995 and was the 10th state university in Southwest Florida
  • The original vision for the university was one that would address emerging higher education needs for the 21st century
  • Half of the University’s 800 acres is preserved or restored land
  • Mike Martin, President of FGCU, served the Colorado State University System during the state’s transition from medical to recreational marijuana legalization

Growing in the Right Direction

President Mike Martin, FGCU’s residing President for the past 16 months, has been in public education for 47 years. As previous chancellor of the Colorado State university system, he saw the university through Colorado’s transition into legal recreational cannabis use. He sees this unique moment in Florida’s history as an opportunity to serve the local economy, creating opportunities for students and the community. 

“Our objective is to take whatever nature gives us and maximize its use to benefit the human condition,” says Mike. “This really was a bottom up, not top down decision. Martha and a few other faculty believed and encouraged the rest of us to think about the value in participating in an emerging industry.“

The cannabis industry is growing and as a regional university, we need to be connected to the culture of Southwest Florida.

The cannabis industry is growing—and as a regional university, we need to be connected to the culture of Southwest Florida.”

The program will consist of a series of integrated classes designed to allow students to enter the cannabis industry from different angles. Classes within the focus will span a broad range of topics: pharmacology and physiology, chemistry, cooking and cannabis, law and policy, horticulture and botany, taxes and banking, and business and culture. Internship opportunities with local dispensaries and other businesses will be available to students, as well as a weekly cannabis career club, led by Professor Sam, for further student involvement. 

However, this pathway is not to be confused with a major. 

“Marijuana is not a major, but it is a focus,” explains President Mike, whose support has helped spearhead the program’s adoption. “We won’t have a major called ‘Marijuana’ any more than we will have a major called ‘Trees’—it is simply too broad a subject with multiple potential paths to take. But we will have a discipline, and we need to figure out which disciplines we can bring to bear on this industry that will be most relevant to our students.” 

Cannabis: Safest Drug on Earth?

Dr. Martha has seen a lot of change in the time she’s been with the University. But one thing that has stayed the same is FGCU’s commitment to providing its students the quality education and experience most relevant to their success. 

Having earned a master’s degree in neuropharmacology from Brown University, PhD in neuroscience from UCLA, and now entering her 22nd year with FGCU, Dr. Martha has spent her 25-year career writing textbooks, researching, and educating on the topic of drugs and their applications. It was this research and experience that led her to an interest in cannabis as medicine. 

“The cannabis industry is the fastest growing industry in the country,” Dr. Rosenthal explains. “We want our students to secure jobs and take advantage of the opportunities out there.”

“My life has been about education,” Martha says. “I think everyone feels confident that eventually, legal adult use will be the law of the nation, and people need to know what this drug is, good and bad—although in the 25 years that I’ve been teaching on this subject, I can say that cannabis is one of the safest drugs on earth.”
Dr. Martha may just be right: According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Opioid addiction killed more than 28,000 Americans in 2014, and that number continues to grow. Every year, approximately 88,000 people die from alcohol-related causes. But how many deaths are recorded from the use of cannabis? Zero. 

In fact, in order to ingest a fatal dose, a cannabis user would have to consume 1,500 pounds in 15 minutes: a physically impossible feat.

Dr. Martha shakes her head. “For years, I would wave my arms in the air over marijuana policy. I wanted to educate, because cannabis is one of the most commonly-used psychoactive drugs in America today. 66% of all Americans support recreational use. 91% support medical use. The numbers are amazing and growing.”

When she heard that Professor Sam had proposed the idea of a class on cannabis, she knew her opportunity had come. 

“There are so many mis-truths out there surrounding cannabis and having an educated populace makes everything better. I think that in five years, other universities will regret not getting involved.” 

FGCU plans to be at the cutting edge of this trend in education. 

Opportunities for Success

But why WEED? 

“The cannabis industry is the fastest growing industry in the country,” Dr. Martha explains. “We want our students to secure jobs and take advantage of the opportunities out there.” 

And from the looks of it, the opportunities are staggering. According to in 2018, cannabis sales are expected to reach $8 billion in the US, with $3 billion attributed to medical use and $5 billion attributed to recreational use. The US market for legal cannabis grew a whopping 74% from 2014 to 2018.

According to a report from New Frontier Data published by Forbes magazine in 2017, the legal cannabis market is projected to grow annually at a rate of 17% in the next two years, with projected (cont’d) cannabis sales estimated at $13.3 billion. That’s a lot of jobs—and a lot of opportunity for young people entering the job market. But despite climbing employment statistics, recent college graduates still experience a fair share of underemployment. According to, between 11.1% and 75% of college grads experience challenge finding work in their given field, depending on major. 

Our goal is always to be relevant and responsive to the region and its people– to create opportunities for students who come here to have a career that will be satisfying if they stay local.

The legal cannabis industry is projected to create over a quarter of a million jobs by 2020—and with opportunities in manufacturing, utilities, and government projected to decline at a steady rate in coming years, the cannabis industry could potentially provide a much-needed economic safety net for recent grads.

Staying True to its Roots

FGCU joins a dappled and growing number of schools in the country offering classes in cannabis, each catering to a different focus relevant to its region. But with only two other schools in the country offering cannabis courses specific to education and integrated study, FGCU’s decision represents quite a milestone in the history of America’s cannabis climate. 

Several universities have adopted minors and concentrations in the cannabis, including Colorado, California, Vermont, and Michigan. However, Dr. Martha hopes that FGCU’s approach will represent something unique and accessible. “There are very few programs in the country that cover cannabis in an integrated way,” says Dr. Martha. “These programs are typically linear and focused, but ours will be interdisciplinary and integrated. In this industry, you need chemists, you need marketing people—almost every field of study. That’s one of the reasons I love our approach—it is not narrow.”

In Colorado; CU Boulder, Fort Collins, and Pueblo started cannabis centers aimed towards the business and management side of the industry. In San Diego, programs focusing on the NIH medical side of cannabis research have been in place for years. Michigan and Vermont are now following suit. It seems that all across the country, educators are starting to observe and respond to growing market trends and employment potential for their students and local economies. 

President Mike hopes that offering this broad focus will help grow opportunities for students who choose to stay in the community, providing education, research, and engagement that continues to advance the well-being of South West Florida. Having served CU during Colorado’s transition to legal recreational use, he observes
this moment as an opportunity for students, the community, and the region as a whole. 

“It’s about relevance,” Mike says. “In parts of Colorado, for example, administrations saw an economically-stressed region, and saw cannabis as an opportunity for them. When I was at Oregon State, grape growing was going to evolve, so we started a focus in the college. We always try to be a participatory in emerging opportunities, and clearly medical marijuana has some very positive impacts.”

What’s Next?

FGCU has high hopes that it will one day become the premier university for Florida residents who want to work in the cannabis industry. However, for now, they are focused on growth, development, and service to the local region. 

“From here, we will be growing, growing, and growing!” says Dr. Martha. “It would be great if we could make FGCU Florida’s great cannabis university. This program exists because of our wonderful president, our foundation, and the wonderful people at FGCU—forward-thinking, supportive, and innovative people.” 

When asked about his ambitions for the program, President Mike is humble, grounded, and optimistic: “I don’t know if I have ambitions. But our goal is always to be relevant and responsive to the region and its people—to create opportunities for students who come here to have a career that will be satisfying if they stay local. I hope the program grows in this way. Let’s see where this leads us.”


CBD + Plant Medicine



Herbal medicines are defined as “the art or practice of using herbs and herbal preparations to maintain health and to prevent, alleviate, or cure disease.” By this definition, cannabinoids derived from hemp and cannabis plants would be classified as herbal plant medicines. Cannabinoids and other compounds found within the cannabis plant have been proven to work better when used together, but what other plant medicines contain natural benefits that work synergistically with CBD? While the research has a long way to go on synergistic efficacy of plant medicine combinations, herbalists and naturopaths have long recommended specific herbs and plants for certain symptoms.  

What does the research say about CBD along with other natural plant medicines?

As of this writing, there is not much research on CBD’s role in complementary and alternative medicine (CAM), nor on its synergistic effects when combined with other herbal remedies. While there is no specific research on which herbs are most beneficial when combined with CBD, there has been research done on specific herbs’ benefits as well as research on the benefits of using CBD that we can use to make educated guesses as to which herbs would provide synergistic effects. Additionally, traditional herbalism practitioners and naturopaths who have been trained in herbal remedies and natural medicines can recommend specific combinations based on the symptoms being treated.  

5 Herbs Recommended for Use with CBD

While scientific studies may have some ground to cover when it comes to herbal CBD combinations, naturopaths, herbalists, and CBD brands are already combining herbs in products like tinctures and topicals. ”Pairing herbs or natural plant medicine with cannabinoids just makes sense,” explains Jordan Person, fellow GRAM writer, herbalist and CBD manufacturer. “Often the plant medicine that you are working with provides a synergistic affect or often even the same effect that a cannabinoid can.” These points are reiterated by naturopaths like Dr. Pepper Hernandez ND, CNHP. These herbal recipes and recommendations are based on existing research on the benefits of CBD as well as traditional plant medicines that would work well with CBD, including common herbs like lavender, rosemary, echinacea, holy basil, and ginger.  


Lavender’s main terpene is linalool, a terpene that is also present in hemp and cannabis, and known to be effective at helping with anxiety. “Anxiety is higher than ever and lavender is rich in the terpene linalool,” explains Person. “This terpene has been scientifically proven to reduce anxiety. CBD has also shown to lessen these stress-filled symptoms. Combining this cannabinoid with this herb may provide a beneficial effect for anxiety.” Studies back up these claims, suggesting that tinctures and infusions that combine lavender with CBD may help mitigate anxiety. 


According to Hernandez, rosemary may pair well with cannabinoids as hemp, cannabis, and rosemary plants all contain beta-caryophyllene, a terpene known for its analgesic effects and ability to help reduce inflammation. Rosemary is known to offer similar benefits as well as possessing anti-cancer properties similar to those of CBD. As both rosemary and CBD offer similar benefits, it would be logical to infer their synergistic interaction with one another.  


Both Hernandez and Person recommended echinacea in combination with CBD. Echinacea, or purple coneflower, contains “certain endocannabinoid-like fatty acid N-alkylamides” that can “potently activate CB2 cannabinoid receptors.” Additionally, evidence suggests that plants with high concentrations of these alkylamides and fatty acid amides could have synergistic interactions with cannabinoids like CBD. 


Studies have shown that both CBD and non-psychoactive cannabinoids may be effective in the treatment of nausea. Herbs known to help with nausea work great in conjunction with cannabinoid regimens. “Ginger, for example, is great for relieving nausea the same way that THC and CBD can,” explains Person, and research backs up these claims, further indicating that ginger and CBD would be an effective synergistic combination for treating nausea.

Holy Basil

As with rosemary, holy basil or Tulsi, possesses many anti cancer properties like THC and CBD. Additionally, both CBD and tulsi possess anti-inflammatory, neuroprotective, and antioxidant properties that parallel known benefits of cannabinoids, suggesting a highly synergistic relationship between the two plant medicines. 

While the research on specific combinations may still be in its early stages, traditional medicines and herbal teachings suggest that what we know about certain herbs like ginger, holy basil, and lavender, may work well in combination with cannabinoids like CBD, as we learn more about the effects of these cannabinoids. For now, looking for herbs whose benefits parallel those of cannabinoids like CBD will be your best bet at finding synergistic combinations that work for your needs.  

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Education & Research

What’s Working for Stress Issues



Releaf is a free mobile app that encourages patients to mindfully track their cannabis experiences. They believe you will strengthen your relationship with yourself while also learning how cannabis can help alleviate your specific issues and ailments. GRAM is proud to share with our readers data gathered using Releaf from individuals suffering from stress symptoms. 

They reported the effectiveness of products for specific symptoms of individuals suffering from anxiety, insomnia, agoraphobia, depression, PTSD, and gastrointestinal problems. The data reflect their individual experiences self-reported using the Releaf App.

Top Rated in USA


  • Orange Cream, Concentrate | The Clear | Colorado
  • Zen Pure Reserve Oil, Concentrate | Surterra | Florida
  • Ac/Dc, Flower | Opc Cultivation | Ohio


  • Grape Dreams, Concentrate | Evolab | Colorad
  • Cherry Chem Og, Concentrate | Ascend Illinois | Illinois
  • 707 Headband Live Resin Budder, Concentrate | Cresco | Pennsylvania


  • Orange Cream, Concentrate | The Clear | Colorado
  • Zen Pure Reserve Oil, Concentrate | Surterra | Florida
  • Purple Haze #44, Wax | Prime Wellness | Pennsylvania


  • Flo, Flower | Emerald Fields | Colorado
  • Zen Pure reserve Oil | Surterra | Florida
  • Florida Black Haze #14, Flower | Prime Wellness | Pennsylvania


  • Flo, Flower | Emerald Fields | Colorado
  • Holy Roller Og, Flower | Bold | Arkansas
  • Terra Penn Wife’s Poison, Concentrate | Terrapin | Pennsylvania

Gostrointestinal Problems

  • Jillybean, Flower | Baseball 18 | Colorado
  • Lemon G, Flower | Terrapin | Pennsylvania
  • Harmony, Concentrate | Luxlyte | New York

Top Rated in Florida


  • Zen Pure Reserve Oil, Concentrate | Surterra
  • Ac/Dc, Concentrate | Trulieve
  • Super Sour Diesel, Concentrate | Trulieve


  • Granddaddy Purple, Concentrate | Curaleaf
  • 9lb Hammer, Concentrate | Trulieve
  • Vidacann Indica, Pill | Vidacann


  • Zen Pure Reserve Oil | Surterra
  • Ac/Dc, Concentrate | Trulieve
  • Suer Sour Diesel, Concentrate | Trulieve


  • Zen Pure Reserve Oil | Surterra
  • Ac/Dc, Concentrate | Trulieve
  • Super Sour Diesel, Concentrate | Trulieve


  • Ac/Dc, Concentrate | Trulieve
  • Super Sour Diesel, Concentrate | Organic Smart Cart
  • Jack Herer, Concentrate | Curaleaf

Gastrointestinal Problems

  • Zen, Concentrate | Surterra
  • Serene Blend, Concentrate | Surterra
  • Revive AM Blend, Concentrate | Surterra


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Scientists & Researchers

Dr. Salm Live Interview



In case you missed the live video from our friends at Nugtopia, here it is! Jordan Person from Gram Magazine interviews Dr. Salm, a cannabis scientist that lived at an Antarctic Research station for 3 months! Covering terpenes, isolation and more…

Nugtopia 3 Pm

Jordan Person from Gram Magazine and Dr. Salm a cannabis scientist that lived at an Antarctic Research station for 2 years!

Posted by Tom Quigley on Monday, April 20, 2020

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