The University of Maryland School of Pharmacy (UMSOP) announced Monday the establishment of a Master of Science in Medical Cannabis and Therapeutics, the first master’s program in the country with a focus on the plant’s healing properties.
The two-year degree is stationed at the Universities of Shady Grove campus in Rockville. Here are three things to know about the inaugural program starting in August.
Students will not work directly with the marijuana plant.
Wait, a medical cannabis program where students can’t even touch the flower? The quagmire of state and federal marijuana laws means budding industry professionals must take a hands off approach to the plant—literally.
“We had meetings with the attorney general of the state to ensure that the content of our program was aligned with the appropriateness of what we could educate on,” says UMSOP Dean Natalie Eddington. “There are no laboratories or other activities where the plant is available to students because we can’t do that.”
Growing medical marijuana is legal in Maryland, but cultivation is limited to 15 licensees and penalized as possession or possession with intent to distribute, depending on the circumstance. Plus, lighting a joint or popping an edible is still illegal in the eyes of Uncle Sam.
Instead, students will utilize photo technology to analyze the plant’s appearance. Students are not able to work directly with terpenes, the smell component of cannabis used to identify and categorize unique strains.
The master’s of science isn’t just for scientists.
Although the program is situated in the School of Pharmacy, the degree is designed to educate the full range of the marijuana workforce, from healthcare providers to policy makers. The core coursework revolves around three pillars: medical cannabis science, therapeutics, and policy.
Eddington herself is teaching a course titled “Introduction to Medical Cannabis History, Culture, and Policy.” The class traces the ancient origins of weed, it’s pathway through central Asia, and its shifting regulatory status. Additional courses focus on topics like treating diseases with marijuana and the negative effects of cannabis. Outside the mandated classes, students select four electives to adapt the curriculum to their distinct field of interest.
The majority of coursework is online with an in-person symposium each semester.
“We wanted this to be an accessible program and we want it to be able to tap into students where they are,” Eddington says. “It’s for non-traditional students that might be working and this kind of delivery is important to them.”
In addition to the online coursework, the campus is hosting an industry symposium each year during the fall and spring semesters. Cannabis professionals will have an opportunity to meet students and share insights from the field while recruiting industry-educated students.
The university expects total cost of the program to be $20,785.20 for in-state students and $25,621.20 for out-of-state students.