As U.S. business and government continue to butt heads over medicinal cannabis, some educational institutions are turning to science to help elevate and inform the conversation.
Helping blaze the trail toward cannabis’ acceptance in academia is none other than the University of Vermont, which now offers a range of college-level coursework and training on the plant through its Larner College of Medicine (no doubt home to some other ‘berners‘). Ranging from online modules to the traditional classroom setting, courses are designed to give students and professionals a thorough, evidence-based understanding of the scientific ‘why’ behind weed–no more, no less.
For the past two years, UVM students have been especially quick to partake of Pharm 200: “Cannabis Past, Present, and Future,” the nation’s first-ever ‘higher learning’ course on the science of medicinal cannabis (so close, UC Davis). Pharmacology professor and researcher Karen Lounsbury, Ph.D., who designed the annual class with co-teacher Wolfgang Dostmann, Ph.D., explained by phone that sticking to up-to-date clinical knowledge was critical to their mission, and to getting the three-credit course approved.
Under Vermont law, cannabis possession and distribution can still result in fines or prosecution outside of the medical space, and state regulations wouldn’t allow Lounsbury’s students to visit dispensaries. At UVM, like other academic institutions, research that involves cannabis materials also must first traverse a field of red tape, as required by federal law.
From the college’s perspective, “The only requirement was making sure it was a serious, evidence-based science class,” Lounsbury said. To establish both legality and legitimacy for the course, then, Lounsbury and her colleagues have focused on introducing fundamental concepts in pharmacology and key concepts in human physiology “underlying medicinal and other cannabis use.”
That means molecular biology, neuroscience, chemistry,