Michigan voters recently legalized recreational cannabis. A few months later, PharmSci 420 (I'm serious, that is the class's real number) was added to the course offerings at the University of Michigan. The course, PharmSci 420: the Science and Facts of Cannabis, is being offered through the UM College of Pharmacy and is being taught by Prof. Gus Rosania. Prof. Rosania has been a longtime advocate for a scientific understanding of the plant and its pharmacological properties.
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Rosania is serious about what will be taught in his course. “This is serious science that should have been done 80 years ago,” Rosania said according to mlive.com, “We’re essentially 80 years behind where we should be.” The course takes a multidisciplinary approach to teach students the underlying biology, chemistry, pharmacology, toxicology, epidemiology, and pharmacokinetics of cannabis. His course relies on guest lecturers from industry, doctors, psychologists, pharmacoepidemiologists, lawyers, social policy experts, and dispensary operators.
This is apparently becoming a trend on college campuses, with courses being offered in business, physiology, and cannabis law. In 2017 Northern Michigan University (NMU) started offering a program on medicinal plant chemistry. This program is, according to NMU, the only 4-year undergraduate degree program of its kind. It is designed to prepare students for a career in the emerging industries relating to medicinal plant production, analysis, and distribution. That would include cannabis. Interestingly, one of its course listings in CH 420. Something about that number...
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The program at NMU is forward thinking and acknowledges that the cannabis industry will be the best startup opportunity for entrepreneurs and investors. According to a report in Forbes, 62% of marijuana businesses became profitable within 12 months. Only 6% took more than 3 years. With numbers like that, students who enroll in these courses are not only learning the science of cannabis but may be better prepared for a career in a lucrative industry upon graduation.
Back at the University of Michigan, Rosania boasts about student engagement in his course. For instance, as opposed to the typical 25% attendance in his other pharmacy courses, PharmSci 420 maintains a rate of 90%. The students in his class comprise majors in pharmacy, computer science, business, kinesiology, nursing, and botany, among others. Perhaps surprisingly, absent from his classes are medical students. This is due, according to Rosania, to the fact that training in medicinal cannabis hasn’t yet become part of standard medical practice.
This is unfortunate, and is a testament to the slow yet careful process towards change that occurs in medicine. “Ultimately, what you really want to see is for this to be taught in the medical school, because I think it’s going to be a great (alternative) medication,” Rosania said. “It's going to become more of a standard medication use in medical practice that can serve as an alternative to more toxic, lethal drugs like opioids.”
See the video below for a press conference given by Prof. Rosania regarding his latest course.