As the use of medical marijuana is being allowed in more states across the country, the University of Vermont is joining other universities in the offering of a course on the science of cannabis, with professors saying not enough research exists on the topic.
While other institutions have offered courses in marijuana law and policy in the past, UVM is likely to be the first to offer a full course focusing on medical marijuana, says the Association of American Medical Colleges and Universities.
"What we're trying to do with this course is to sort of demystify this whole subject matter, to try to treat this like any other drug, like alcohol or amphetamines or opioids," said Vermont pharmacology professor Wolfgang Dostmann. "Just demystify the whole thing and say what it is, what is going on with it, how does it work."
To date, 23 states including Vermont allow the use of medical marijuana for a number of conditions including HIV and cancer. However, the drug is still illegal under federal law.
Online medical marijuana courses are currently being offered by the Massachusetts Medical Society, an accredited institution, which includes a course on pharmacology. These courses are limited at the moment due to a lack of research available.
The topic is a popular one with almost 90 graduate and undergraduate students already signing up for the UVM course set to start in spring 2016, causing the classroom to see an expansion. The general public is also allowed to take the course, and it has been opened up to members of the Legislature, law enforcement, and those in medicine.
However, professors argue there is not enough high-quality research on the topic to create an entire course. Vermont pharmacology professor Karen Lounsbury said much of the information available is hearsay.
The course is expected to cover cannabis taxonomy, the medical chemistry of the drug, physiological effects, therapeutic applications, as well as the historical, political, and socioeconomic influences on marijuana legislation, writes Lisa Rathke for The Rutland Herald.
Meanwhile, a Phoenix-based online university is set to offer a course on the drug to its students. A survey course is set to begin at the private, for-profit online Dunlap-Stone University called "The Modern Cannabis Industry." In addition, degree programs are in the works, including a Bachelor of Health Administration with a specialization in cannabinoid therapies, and a Bachelor of Business with a specialization in cannabis operations.
"A lot is happening in the marijuana industry, and education is needed," says university President Donald Burton. "We see the demand for a quality education program. We are looking all the way toward programs at the doctorate level."
The elective course is offered over a six-week period at a cost of $990 for three credit hours, and will be open to anyone who meets the general requirements, which includes having a high school diploma.
Although community colleges have previously offered programs pertaining to the growth of marijuana, the course could be the first to meet national accreditation standards, writes Shannon Hogan for The Phoenix News Times.