SOP Hosts Symposium for MS in Medical Cannabis Science and Therapeutics Students

Students enrolled in online program travel from around the world for opportunity to interact with each other in-person and network with leaders in the medical cannabis industry.

By Malissa Carroll
September 23, 2019

The University of Maryland School of Pharmacy welcomed more than 150 individuals from around the world to the Universities at Shady Grove (USG) in Rockville, Md., on Sept. 5, as it hosted its first symposium for students in the MS in Medical Cannabis Science and Therapeutics program. The symposium offered students enrolled in the online program an opportunity to interact with each other in-person, as well as network with leaders in the medical cannabis industry.

The MS in Medical Cannabis Science and Therapeutics is the first graduate program in the nation dedicated to the study of medical cannabis. It aims to provide students with the knowledge and skills needed to support patients and the medical cannabis industry, add to existing research, and develop well-informed medical cannabis policy.

“As the number of states where medical cannabis is legal increases, so does the need for an educated workforce to respond to the demand with expertise in the science, clinical care, and policy surrounding this medicinal plant,” said Natalie D. Eddington, PhD, FCP, FAAPS, dean and professor of the School of Pharmacy, in her opening remarks. “And, the University of Maryland School of Pharmacy is proud to be at the forefront of this field. Our program uses science to inform clinical care and seeks to move beyond historical stigma to produce a trained and educated workforce. As members of the first class of our new MS in Medical Cannabis Science and Therapeutics, you will be seen as trailblazers and leaders, as innovators and risk takers, and as change makers.”

The national and international response to the MS in Medical Cannabis Science and Therapeutics, which launched earlier this summer, has been tremendous. The program received more than 500 applications for its first cohort of 150 students.

The two-year program designed for students who are interested in a career in the medical cannabis industry, whether in a clinical, scientific, or policy role. Fifty percent of students admitted to the first cohort have backgrounds in science and medicine, while others have studied diverse areas such as law, public health, business, political science, and communication. Students range in age from 22 to 72 years, and reside across 32 states, as well as Washington, D.C.; China; and Australia.

“I believe that this diversity will make this experience all the richer for you, and for those of us teaching in the program,” said Leah Sera, PharmD, MA, BCPS, assistant professor in the Department of Pharmacy Practice and Science (PPS) and director of the MS in Medical Cannabis Science and Therapeutics at the School.

The symposium kicked-off with a series of presentations that aimed to introduce students to the School of Pharmacy, the USG campus, and the resources that will be available to them during their time in the program. Students also had an opportunity to participate in roundtable discussions with professionals in the medical cannabis industry, during which experts from organizations such as Charm City Medicus, Green Thumb Industries, and the Medical Cannabis Law Group spoke with students about their careers and answered questions about a variety of medical cannabis industry-related topics.

“The roundtable discussions with industry professionals taught me a lot,” said Maha Haq, president of the Cannaclub at the University of California, Los Angeles and current student in the MS in Medical Cannabis Science and Therapeutics program. “There were professionals from different types of organizations with whom we could communicate and learn from, and it exposed me to all of the options that are available to advance my own career. It was positive reinforcement of what we could all become as we work through the program.”

The symposium continued with three expert seminars presented by Patricia C. Frye, MD, founder and medical director of Takoma Park Integrative Care; William Tilburg, JD, MPH, acting executive director for the Maryland Medical Cannabis Commission; and Arnold Honkofsky, BS, PD, clinical director for Advisory Board-Wellness Institute of Maryland. Frye and Honkofsky spoke about their careers as health care professionals and the factors that motivated them to pursue positions in the medical cannabis industry, while Tilburg provided an overview of the Maryland Medical Cannabis Commission and emphasized the need for an educated industry workforce.

“There is a desperate need for more medical cannabis experts not only in the state of Maryland, but also across the United States,” said Tilburg. “By offering a program such as the MS in Medical Cannabis Science and Therapeutics, the School of Pharmacy is addressing a critical workforce need. As professionals being educated in this program, you will be well-equipped to share the knowledge that you learn with patients, caregivers, growers, and others.”

The event concluded with an evening networking reception.

“Attending this symposium has been a great experience, especially with all of the networking opportunities that were available to us as students,” said student Derwin Pritchett, MS, MBA, co-chief executive officer of medical cannabis cultivation start-up Ani’s Love, LLC. “The connections that we are making today are going to really drive us to change what is going on in the medical cannabis industry. Because there are only 150 of us who have the opportunity to be a part of this first class, it is incumbent upon us to be leaders who stand out in the crowd, and to work towards something even greater than just getting the degree.”

The MS in Medical Cannabis Science and Therapeutics blends online learning with face-to-face experiences, and is designed for any individual who has completed his or her undergraduate degree and is interested in pursuing a career in the medical cannabis industry. The program is currently accepting applications for Fall 2020. To learn more, please visit the program’s website.

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