Source – https://www.mlive.com/news/ann-arbor/2019/02/this-university-of-michigan-class-is-teaching-the-science-of-cannabis.html
ANN ARBOR, MI – Gus Rosania describes the work being done in his PharmSci 420 course at the University of Michigan as “pretty darn serious.”
Rosania has long been an advocate for “building science around marijuana,” and believes the course, offered for the first time at UM this semester, has the potential to help people better understand cannabis and how it can be used as medicine.
Just a couple of months after voters in Michigan opted to legalize recreational marijuana, Rosania’s class was introduced with the goal of teaching students the underlying biology, chemistry, pharmacology, toxicology, epidemiology and pharmacokinetics of cannabis.
In other words, there’s no stoner vibe here.
“This is serious science that should have been done 80 years ago,” Rosania said after a lecture on Feb. 15. “We’re essentially 80 years behind where we should be.”
More colleges and universities have begun offering courses focusing on the business, physiology and legal aspects of the cannabis industry in recent years. Northern Michigan University became the first university to offer a four-year degree in Medicinal Plant Chemistry in 2017.
Rosania’s course relies heavily on experts from the industry, with guest lecturers including doctors, psychologists, pharmacoepidemiologists, lawyers, social policy experts and dispensary operators. David H. Sherman, a professor of chemistry with UM’s Life Sciences Institute, provided a recent guest lecture on the secondary metabolism, biosynthesis and CBD and THC assembly from cannabis.
“What I love about this field is how multi-disciplinary it is,” Sherman said. “We have to know something about microbiology, about plant biology, biochemistry and reaction mechanisms of that chemistry and biosynthesis.”
Rosania said student engagement in the course has been encouraging, with around 90 percent attendance during his most recent lecture, compared to around 25 percent for a typical pharmacy course he teaches.
Around half of the students enrolled in the course are studying pharmacy, Rosania said, with the other half comprised of students from computer science, business, kinesiology, nursing and botany, among others.
Notably absent from that list, Rosania said, are students studying medicine. That’s because training in medicinal cannabis hasn’t yet become part of standard medical practice, he said.
“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.”
First-year pharmacy student Sarah Harris saw the course as an opportunity to learn about the wide-ranging impact of the cannabis industry.
“For me, it’s been interesting to see that it can be used in combination with other drugs to be therapeutic for patients,” Harris said. “Especially with the passing of the new marijuana laws, I figured as a pharmacist, I might be getting questions about it, so I almost felt obligated to take this class.”
Mark Passerini, co-owner of the Om of Medicine marijuana dispensary on Ann Arbor’s Main Street, is excited about the new cannabis class and plans to give a guest lecture in March, along with state Sen. Jeff Irwin, D-Ann Arbor. Evan Litinas, Om of Medicine’s chief medical officer, was the keynote lecturer at the very first class.
“Hopefully this will spur on some other major universities throughout the country to follow that lead and finally start taking the cannabis movement a little bit more seriously when it relates to patients and therapeutic options that are outside of the opioid realm,” Passerini said.