Diverse class, high hopes for MS Medical cannabis students


As the youngest cohort of students enrolled in the University of Maryland School of Pharmacy’s (UMSOP) Master of Science in Medical Cannabis Science and Therapeutics sat in front of him in the large multipurpose room, Andrew Coop, PhD, Professor and Deputy Dean of Studies at UMSOP greeted him warmly and asked an important question at the same time.

Program Director Leah Sera welcomes the Class of 2023 to the Fall Symposium MS in Medical Cannabis Science and Therapeutics.

“Now we’re going to give you the scientific background,” Coop said in an interview with the new student cohort. “You get the clinical background. You get the background of the negative results. You get the legal background. You will get the analytical background and you will get all of that. It’s going to be a long journey. What do you want to do with it?”

Students in UMSOP’s MS in Medical Cannabis Science and Therapeutics, the only one of its kind in the country, were eager to answer that question when they gathered for the program’s fall symposium on September 17 and began their training in the emerging industry. More than 200 students attended the event at the Universities of Shady Grove (USG) in Rockville, Md.

Leah Sera, PharmD, MA, Program Director and Associate Professor, UMSOP, welcomed the Class of 2023, composed of students ages 20 to 73 from the United States, Washington, DC, Canada, the United Arab Emirates, and Costa Rica.

“There is a lot of uncertainty in the world right now and I know that many of you are accepting the challenge of this program in addition to increased professional and personal responsibility,” said Sera. “Thank you for deciding to take part in this program and to contribute to the advancement of cannabis medicine.”

Launched in August 2019, the program provides students with the knowledge and skills required to support patients and the medical cannabis industry, complement existing research in the field, and develop sound medical cannabis policy. The two-year program based at USG is aimed at anyone who has completed a bachelor’s degree and is interested in a career in the medical cannabis industry.

Sera said reading the students’ introductions on a message board prior to the meeting at USG excited her about the diversity of the group.

“We have students with science and medical backgrounds, students who have studied law, public health, economics, political science, communications, and students with backgrounds in many other fields,” she said. “I believe this diversity makes this experience even richer for you and those of us who teach and support the program.”

The morning session also included comments from Anne Khademian, PhD, Executive Director, USG, Assistant Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs, University System of Maryland; Carrie Hempel-Sanderoff, TO DO, an osteopathic physician and owner of Hempel-Sanderoff Wellness and an addition to the MS program; Jon B. Gettman, PhD, Associate Professor of Criminology and Criminal Justice, Shenandoah University; and Michelle Wright, MS ’21, President of Certus Consulting, and the program’s first graduate graduate who shared her story of the benefits of medicinal cannabis for her 29 year old autistic son.

The MS in Medical Cannabis Science and Therapeutics is the country’s first graduate program devoted to the study of medical cannabis. It aims to meet the needs of all individuals who wish to expand their knowledge of medical cannabis, including healthcare professionals such as doctors, nurses, and pharmacists; Scientists and regulators; Producers and owners of pharmacies; as well as experts from politics and industry. Online courses are aimed at students with or without a scientific or medical background. As a rule, face-to-face symposia take place once a semester to give students the opportunity to network with their peers and to meet and interact with experts in the science, therapy and politics of medical cannabis.

The program completed its first grade with 132 students in May 2021.

To the Alexandra Harris, a California field application scientist who works in cancer biology, participating in the UMSOP program is a means of removing the stigma surrounding cannabis to advance cannabis research. Harris was raised by cannabis advocates who used cannabis to treat their Lyme disease and shingles. “I value cannabis for its medicinal value,” she said. Today she is Vice President of the Medical Cannabis Student Association, the student organization for the program.

classmate James Schwartz, a former critical care nurse and a medical cannabis grower in Oregon for more than two decades, advocated sound cannabis policy in Washington, DC. He signed up for the program to stay at the forefront of the “cannabis revolution”.

“Personally, I’ve found that cannabis has changed and healed my life,” he said. “My best friend died when I was in college. It took me down a path of uncomfortable alcohol and other drug use and left me in a rather deep state of depression. And when I finally got those other harmful toxins out of my body and found cannabis again after consuming it for pleasurable reasons during college, I really began to understand the therapeutic potential of cannabis. And it was at that time that I began to really deal with the research of the time, which was relatively small 22 years ago. “

“As I look into the future where I want to be, the credibility of an accredited Masters Degree in Cannabinoid Science and Therapy will be useful in staying at the forefront of cannabis science that has become my life passion,” said he

Carlos Hernandez, MD, traveled from Costa Rica to attend the symposium. “It’s been a very long journey. I had to get vaccinated because vaccines aren’t that available in my country, and I had to get vaccinated like a month ago in Miami and then get all this information sent to the university, ”he said.

A family doctor, Hernandez, known in his country as the “cannabis doctor”, has been prescribing cannabinoids to his patients for four years.

With his MS degree, “I hope to bring all of this information into advocacy and policymaking in my country as we are about to actually produce and regulate cannabis in my country,” he said.

Megan Arnold, a New Hampshire music teacher, was inspired by her husband, a nurse, who saw the benefits of medicinal cannabis in his work with veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder.

“His experience with veterans and PTSD, and his own personal experiences with PTSD and treatment with cannabis, inspired me to do more research and find out what was going on,” said Arnold. “And the more I researched, the more intrigued I was with what I was learning compared to what I was taught.”

After teaching music for 22 years, she took leave to join the MS medical cannabis program.

“The advocacy group drove me to this program,” she said. “For me it seems like a way to learn and then continue teaching, even if it’s not music.”

As a teacher, she has seen many children with ADHD treated with Ritalin and Adderall with terrible results. “I see children who have trauma and all sorts of things that could benefit from cannabis in the future, if we knew enough about it. So I’m here to do something about it. “

With additional time during the pandemic, she began researching academic programs on the science of medical cannabis. The UMSOP program came up in a Google search.

“I thought, oh, that doesn’t make any sense. But it makes all the sense in the world, ”she said.

In the afternoon breakout sessions, students met with clinical professionals, entrepreneurs, scientists, and stakeholders to learn about the diversity of career paths in the industry.

“You are the pioneers. And you are the one who can choose what to do. But if anyone of you is interested in advocacy, please contact. Because this is an area that we need to develop further if we want to professionalize this area. So you’re doing this training, going on this journey so that you can train others, ”said Coop.