Cannabis Education Hits the Ivy League (And Elsewhere)

It was only a matter of time before the Ivy League entered the cannabis education business.  Unlike some lesser institutions that have made  long term commitments to cannabis education, the Harvard Business School is testing the waters by offering a one-time only cannabis class. The master class will be taught by  California-based cannabis entrepreneur Adrian Sedlin (a Harvard Business School alum), and will include everything from measuring plant THC levels to how to build a scalable profitable business in an industry at a time of regulatory uncertainty.

For those of you looking for a lesser known but degree-bearing program, check out the  Institute of Cannabis Research a joint effort between the University of Colorado-Pueblo, the State of Colorado and Pueblo County, CO. According to the institute, the program was the nation’s first multi-disciplinary cannabis research center at a “regional, comprehensive institution.” The CSU Pueblo program has an in-state price tag of around $24,185 and roughly $38,767 for out-of-state students.

Another option is the Northern Michigan University (NMU) medicinal plant chemistry program which began this past Fall. According to the university,  the program (which has 12 current enrollees) is designed to give students a more “traditional four-year-secondary-education” approach to cannabis education.  In state tuition at NMU is $22,156 and out of state costs are $27,652.

A recent report indicated that almost 150,000 Americans are employed in the legal cannabis industry. As the industry continues to expand both medically and recreationally, the need for educated and well trained prospective employees will also continue to grow (pun intended).  If you are thinking about an upwardly mobile, long term, financially-satisfying career, it may be worth a shot to go to  (or go back to) college and learn  everything you can about cannabis, its products and its use!

O Canada-Part Deux

Those zany Canadians are at it again!  Yesterday, the Canadian government announced that it will invest almost $47 million (Canadian) over the next five years in a cannabis education and awareness campaign.

According to a press release,  the campaign will include “factual and evidence-based information on the health and safety risks of cannabis use and drug-impaired driving. The campaign will build on ongoing social media efforts, advertising and interactive events to engage youth on the facts.”

The goal of the campaign is to provide Canadians, especially young adults and youth, with clear factual information so that they understand how cannabis could affect them.  A critical part of the initiative is to equip parents and teachers with factual evidence-based scientific information so that they can have meaningful discussions with young Canadians about the risks of cannabis use, especially drug-impaired driving.  To that end, this fall, Public Safety Canada will launch an initiative to inform citizens about the dangers of drug-impaired driving.

Because medical cannabis is legal nationwide  in Canada (and recreational use is soon to follow)  making an investment in cannabis education and awareness makes sense.  An informed and educated public ought to reduce some of the anxiety and possible dangers associated with cannabis use.

Perhaps, the US ought to follow Canada’s lead and make similar investments to educate the American public about medical and recreational cannabis use. At present, the amount of misinformation far outweighs the facts. This is extremely troubling since tens of millions of Americans are currently regular cannabis users.

 

Educating and Training Workers for Jobs in the Legal Cannabis Industry

Clark College, a private two year college of nearly 14,000 students located in Vancouver Washington, has begun offering specialized cannabis education and training courses through its Clark College Economic and Community Development (ECD) program. ECD’s mission is to provide the residents of Southwestern Washington State with certificates programs and technical/workforce training.

Recognizing the, health implications, workforce development needs and economic upside of the legal recreational and medicinal cannabis industry in Washington, Clark offered its first cannabis course this past May.  The course entitled “Cannabis and Your Health” is a five week course that showcased topics such as current industry research, the medical benefits of cannabis and the regulatory and tax laws of recreational/medical cannabis in Washington State.  Not surprisingly, the first course offering was full and there is a waiting list to register.

Another course being offered this summer is more focused on work force development and job training. This offering which is geared toward professional Cannabis growers (not home gardeners) explores topics that include growing cannabis, difference between indoor and outdoor growing operations, and the therapeutic benefits offered by different strains/varieties of cannabis.  Like ECD’s first offering the class size for the second course is small (24 persons maximum).

While Clark College’s efforts are modest, it is becoming increasingly evident that cannabis education and job training will be necessary in states where cannabis use is legal. These efforts will help to provide state residents with science-based Cannabis information as well as to help develop the workforces that will be necessary support the development of Cannabis industries in those states.

 

 

Editorial: Are Cannabis-derived Pharmaceuticals a Possibility in the US?

Surveys conducted in the 1990s (1) and 2000s (2) found that between 30% and 54% of internists and oncologists were in offering cannabis as a therapeutic option for their patients. Yet, despite this, the willingness of many physicians to prescribe medical cannabis for their patients has been less than enthusiastic. Many physicians are concerned about the legality of making medical cannabis recommendations or writing prescriptions regardless of state laws that make medical cannabis legal (3).

Because cannabis and its products are illegal at the Federal level, many physicians believe that they may find themselves in legal jeopardy even though medical cannabis is legal in the states where they practice medicine.  Further, because medical cannabis has not be test or evaluated like other medicinal products, physicians have little or no scientific data to convince them that anecdotal claims about the there therapeutic benefits of cannabis are true. Finally, physicians make recommendations to patients about specific prescription drugs because they are educated about the safety and efficacy of those products.  In the absence of this vital information, physicians will not write prescriptions.

The existing confusion about the legality/criminality of cannabis-derived products has also had an effect on the behavior of insurers and third party payers. To that point, medical cannabis is not on the formularies of almost all insurers in states where medical cannabis is legal and, because of this, they do not reimburse patients for out-of-pocket medical cannabis costs.  While payers currently do not reimburse patients for the use of medical cannabis, it is possible that insurers may reimburse patients who use US Food and Drug administration (FDA)-approved cannabis products but continue to not reimburse patients who use unapproved medical cannabis treatments. Regardless of the outcome, medical cannabis costs continue to rise and its access and use by patients who might benefit from it may be in jeopardy unless payers place it on their formularies.

Because of the legal patchwork for Cannabis that has evolved over time in the US, it is likely that cannabis-derived pharmaceuticals may only be available in the states that have legalized their use. This would force companies developing cannabis-derived pharmaceuticals to duplicate commercial operations in states where medical cannabis is legal and underwrite multiple product launches in individual states because interstate transport of these products is currently illegal. This would be extremely costly (driving up product price) and also decrease patient access to these products to address unmet medical needs. To that point, most companies developing cannabis-derived pharmaceuticals believe that rescheduling of these products from Schedule I drugs to Schedule 2 or 3 would obviate most of these concerns and allow the US Cannabis market to grow to its full potential.  Alternatively, FDA may reschedule cannabis-derived pharmaceuticals on a case-by-case basis upon approval of individual products.

Finally, because Cannabis-derived pharmaceuticals represent a new class of therapeutics, patient and healthcare provider education will be vital to successfully commercialize these products. Put simply, if physicians don’t understand cannabis-derived pharmaceuticals, and they are not convinced they are safe and effective, then, they are not   going to write prescriptions for their patients. Therefore medical cannabis and cannabis-derived pharmaceutical companies must invest in public outreach activities as well as continuing medical education workshops and courses for healthcare professionals to ensure product success.

Despite all of these challenges, there is growing popular demand for cannabis-derived pharmaceuticals in the US. And, it is likely that inclusion of these products in the American pharmacopoeia will begin to address growing unmet medical needs in the US healthcare system and improve patient access to possibly life-changing therapeutic treatments.

References

  1. Doblin RE, Kleiman MA. Marijuana as antiemetic medicine: a survey of oncologists’ experiences and attitudes. Journal of clinical oncology: official journal of the American Society of Clinical Oncology 1991; 9:1314-1319. 
  2. Charuvastra A, Friedmann PD, Stein MD. Physician attitudes regarding the prescription of medical marijuana. Journal of Addictive Diseases 2005; 24: 87-93.
  3. Bowles DW, O’Bryant CL, Camidge DR, Jimeno A. The intersection between cannabis and cancer in the United States. Critical Reviews in Oncology/Hematology 2012l; 83:1-10.

Medical Marijuana Courses Are Now Available for College Credit!

Back in the day when I was going to graduate school in Madison, WI,  there was no such thing as medical Cannabis (although there was plenty of weed to go around).  But, as the line in that old Dylan song goes “the times they are a changin”

Late last month, the University of California-Davis announced that it would be joining Humboldt State University in offering undergraduate students a course entitled Physiology of Cannabis.  FYI, Humboldt State has been offering courses in medical Cannabis since 2012 (not surprising since the school is located in prime Cannabis cultivation territory).

According to UC-Davis officials the semester-long, three credit course will be aimed at biology students and will cover the endocannabinoid system, the effects of cannabinoids on the human body and the therapeutic value of Cannabis.

Likewise, Sonoma State University announced that it will be offering a one day symposium on March 11, 2017  to members of the healthcare industry in the Bay area. The symposium is entitled Medical Cannabis: A Clinical and it is intended as a workforce development course.  Nurses, physicians and pharmacists can get continuing education credit for the course. Topics that will be covered include the history of cannabis, an introduction to cannabinoids and terpenes, dosing and administration of cannabinoids, legal implication and other medical-related issues. The university is also planning a three day course on Cannabis regulatory issues later in the month.

While these courses are available, there is currently no undergraduate degree program in Cannabis science/medicine offered by any US university or college. That said, don’t be surprised if this major becomes a reality in States where medical and recreational Cannabis are legal.