The University of Maryland, Baltimore originally planned on admitting 50 students for its inaugural Master of Science in Medical Cannabis Science and Therapeutics class. However, after receiving more than 500 applications, the university increased its class size to 150 students. The program spans two years and is mostly conducted online. The student body consists of individuals from 32 states and D.C., Australia and Hong Kong.
The university’s program is the first of its kind. A handful of institutions offer classes on marijuana. Northern Michigan University in Marquette, MI, and Minot State University in Minot, North Dakota offer bachelor’s degrees in Medicinal Plant Chemistry, though Derek Hall, Chief Marketing Officer for Northern Michigan University, says, “The internet has called this a cannabis degree; we call it a chemistry degree.”
The desire for higher education on the biology and medical applications of cannabis would appear to reflect itself in the popularity of the program even in its first year. "There have been a number of studies, primarily with health professionals, indicating that there is an educational gap related to medical cannabis — that health professionals want more education because patients are coming to them with questions about cannabis and therapeutic uses," says Leah Sera, pharmacist and the program’s director.
(University of Maryland, Baltimore)
“I know some say, ‘Oh, it's just a moneymaker for the institution,’ but it's because people are asking for it,” says Staci Gruber, associate professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. “People are interested in learning more and knowing more, so [Maryland's program] underscores the need to have more data.”
“I didn't want to quit my really great job and work at a dispensary making $12 to $14 an hour,” says Summer Kriegshauser, who is pursuing her second master’s degree as one of the students in the program. "I really wanted a scientific basis for learning the properties of cannabis — all the cannabinoids and how they interact with the body. I wanted to learn about dosing. I wanted to learn about all the ailments and how cannabis is used within a medical treatment plan, and I just wasn't finding that anywhere," she continues.
The program currently costs about $25,000 to complete and does not offer scholarships, though there is no requirement for an undergraduate science degree nor a thesis, which makes it accessible to a wider array of students.
According to the university, “Coursework is designed to accommodate students with and without a background in science or medicine, and faculty are dedicated to making courses interesting and accessible to all students, regardless of academic background. Online coursework offers students flexibility when completing assignments; however, students are required to travel to USG once each semester for in-person symposia that offer opportunities to network with peers, as well as meet and interact with experts in the science, therapeutics, and policy of medical cannabis.”
The university continues, “All applicants are required to submit an online application, official transcripts, essay, CV/resume, and three (3) letters of recommendation to be considered for enrollment in the M.S. in Medical Cannabis Science and Therapeutics. Additional documents are also required for international applicants.”