Some very interesting cannabis news was announced earlier this summer when the University of Maryland unveiled its plan to become the first U.S. based university to offer a Medical Cannabis Master’s degree. Technically, the degree will be an MS focused on Medical Cannabis Science and Therapeutics. This degree provides students with advanced knowledge in treating patients with medical marijuana and offers a research track as well. It is the intent of the program to educate students who will then apply their knowledge to shaping MMJ policy. This is the first step in what will likely be a large growth in the formal study of cannabis, both recreational and medicinal. The exciting results that people are experiencing with MMJ can only increase with further study.
Many scientists believe that the use of cannabis in the medical field allows for many exciting possibilities and they want to study how cannabis can provide the most positive impact on the field of medicine. With this new degree course, students will have two years of intensive study of the uses of medical cannabis and how its use can be expanded to treat more conditions and benefit even more people. There is a lot of excitement around the research component of the degree program, as this will pave the way for more varied and effective uses of medical marijuana. The more formal study of recreational cannabis would be another way that institutions can further the overall health and wellness of society on a large-scale basis.
There are now 33 states in addition to Puerto Rico, Guam, and Washington, D.C. Of course, Maryland is one of the states in which cannabis is legal for medical purposes, which was a factor that the university considered while formulating the program. The program was created with the thinking that the number of states that legalize cannabis for medical purposes will only grow. It is important to the program’s creators that there are people prepared in the immediate future to deal with the demand and best serve the medical needs of their communities. Maryland will be at the forefront of studying the effects of medical marijuana on communities where it is an accessible and affordable treatment option that can serve people of all ages. The program’s research arm would be well-served to solidify scientific proof that MMJ is, in fact, an effective treatment option. These studies would go a long way to legitimizing the use of medical cannabis on a national level.
There will be some overlap in faculty between the Medical Cannabis Science and Therapeutics program and the well-established Department of Pharmacy Practice and Science. This will allow the program to address procedural as well as clinical aspects of the MMJ field of study. Because the program is being set up as a sort of off-shoot to the Department of Pharmacy, there will not be a need to build everything from the ground up. And as it is a Master’s program the students will already have a base level of knowledge in the fields of pharmacy, public policy, or similar programs. This overlap will inform the research standards and procedures of the new program and will provide a strong foundation for the further study of Medical Cannabis Science and Therapeutics.
It is interesting to consider the involvement of the Department of Pharmacy, because this, in a way, further elevates the use of MMJ to a more conventional level. Observers will watch to see how the school will handle the many differences that exist between MMJ and conventional drugs, and how their research is focused. It is hoped by some people that this is not a sign that public policy will begin to advise that MMJ become more similar to mass-produced pharmaceutical drugs. At this stage, it is believed that the degree will focus on the important work that is still occurring in getting nation-wide acceptance of MMJ as a safe and effective treatment option for many ailments.
The future possibilities available to the research program are endless. There are many different ways that MMJ is used that are not fully approved, and future research could help to expand the ways in which medical cannabis can be used legally. And, the new legitimacy that these studies provide will likely strengthen the case for medical cannabis legalization at the Federal level. Industry leaders may now be wondering if this program is just the first of what may become a huge part of educational expansion in the U.S. With a stronger research arm, the industry can develop even more effective and safe treatment options for patients who benefit from the use of medical marijuana.
This announcement is a further acknowledgment of the importance of the growing medical cannabis industry. The appeal of the program will be widespread, from those looking to operate in the medical part of the industries to those who want to grow cannabis and people interested in the manufacturing aspects of the medical marijuana industry. More institutions will likely follow the lead of the University of Maryland as they recognize the research that will be necessary to harness the full power of medical cannabis. In addition to the medical and public policy components of the industry, there will also be a need for programs centered around business, finance, marketing, supply chain management, and manufacturing.
There will be a lot of room for growth in all educational aspects of the industry now that the ball has started rolling. It is not too farfetched to imagine that there could even be an MBA available with a concentration in Medical Cannabis. Especially as Canada has legalized the use of this plant, the investment opportunities are growing exponentially, and the same is likely to happen in the U.S. Institutions that want to remain on the cutting edge and attract students interested in this growing industry are likely watching the developments at the University of Maryland with a high level of interest.
These new developments are very exciting but in their nascent phases. Because medical marijuana is not yet legal in every state, or at the Federal level, the path to open study and public policy engagement is not totally clear. The industry will continue to evolve, and as it does so, more and more facets of our society will become engaged. It makes sense that the next big push may take place on college campuses, and undergraduate programs are the next logical step in this progression.
As the industry continues to gain more recognition and normalization, it will be important that stakeholders and pioneers in the cannabis movement not allow medical cannabis to become co-opted by the pharmaceutical industry. This issue and other ethical considerations will need to be added into the discussion and study programs as the cannabis industry continues to develop and gain mainstream acceptance. Part of the beauty of medical marijuana is that it’s not a product of big pharma. It will be an important balancing act to maintain the “outsider” elements of the industry while still being able to serve the medical needs of as many people as possible.