College used to be thought of as a time when young adults would experiment with cannabis behind closed doors. Now, cannabis is becoming so normalized that it’s not uncommon for universities to offer cannabis programs and engage in groundbreaking research of the plant. Here are a few of the best universities across the nation that are revolutionizing the knowledge of cannabis—even if not all of the students are old enough to consume it legally.
Colorado State University-Pueblo
Colorado State University-Pueblo’s Institute of Cannabis Research (ICR) is a partnership between the university, the state of Colorado and Pueblo County, which was established in June 2016. The program’s current studies include a study on cannabis for adults who suffer from seizures due to refractory epilepsy, the effects of eating hempseed and applications of industrial hemp, among many others.
“With initial funding support from Pueblo County and the state of Colorado, the ICR is the nation’s first multi-disciplinary cannabis research center at a regional, comprehensive institution,” its website states. “The primary function of the Institute is the generation of knowledge that contributes to science, medicine, and society through investigation of the benefits and risks associated with cannabis.”
On May 28, the Alberta, Canada-based Atlas Biotechnologies Inc. partnered with Harvard Global Health Catalyst on International Phytomedicines and Medical Cannabis Institute at Harvard (Harvard IPI) to create a program that will look into the use of medical cannabis and its properties. The research agreement will take place over the next three years and will provide input and guidance into expanding education and developing more research about cannabis as medicine.
This New Jersey university recently partnered with the New Jersey CannaBusiness Association and the New Jersey Cannabis Industry Association earlier this year, both of which advocate for the cannabis industry throughout the state. The partnership will bring in key individuals to speak with Stockton students about different problems and opportunities facing the industry. “Students in the program come from a variety of majors,” said Dr. Ekaterina Sedia, a Stockton Associate Professor of Biology. “The new partnerships will allow our students to apply what they are learning to their field of interest.” Those who started the program predict that New Jersey will expand its medical cannabis program, and they see recreational cannabis looming in the future as well.
University of California, Irvine
The University of California, Irvine (UCI) School of Medicine was awarded a $9 million grant in 2018 to study cannabis and its impact on teenage brains. The grant came from the National Institute on Drug Abuse, and the four-year study is examining the effects of cannabis on the endocrine system.
“The [endocannabinoid] system is the main point of entry of THC into the brain. Now that cannabis is legal in many states, it’s very important to understand whether excessive activation of this signaling system during adolescence can produce alterations in cognition and motivated behavior that lasts into adulthood,” stated Dr. Daniele Piomelli, director of the UCI Center for the Study of Cannabis.
University of California, San Diego
The University of California, San Diego’s Center for Medicinal Cannabis Research (CMCR) has already conducted a variety of important studies on cannabis. Its current studies include the effects of CBD on children with severe autism, cannabis as a treatment for bipolar disorder and the effects of cannabis and endocannabinoids on neuropathic pain caused by HIV, among many other topics. Starting in 2018, the university partnered with the California Highway Patrol for a study, which examines how driving is impacted by cannabis use.
“If you smoked this morning, are you impaired throughout the day? Are you impaired for a couple of hours? Or are you not impaired? We’re trying to answer that,” said Dr. Thomas D. Marcotte, who is co-director of the CMCR and in charge of the study along with Dr. Barth Wilsey, according to the study. Dr. Marcotte stressed that determining when someone is under the influence of cannabis can be tricky, and this study aims clarify the issue.
University of Colorado, Boulder
University of Colorado, Boulder (CU Boulder) Center for Research and Education Addressing Cannabinoids and Health (CU REACH) is currently studying cannabis. According to CU Boulder’s website, the center “is devoted to the development of evidence-based knowledge regarding the effects of cannabis that will improve the lives of those who suffer from disease states that may be alleviated by cannabis.” The CU REACH program is offering a scholarship to a cannabis research scholar, and those who study there are involved in work that examines CBD, the cannabis genome and more.
University of Connecticut
The University of Connecticut (UConn) is now offering a new cannabis course called “Horticulture of Cannabis: From Seed to Harvest.” This introductory class requires no prerequisite courses and is an introduction to all things cultivation.
“UConn is providing students with an opportunity to be absolutely at the cutting edge of a growing field,” said Gerald Berkowitz, who teaches the course, according to the school’s website. “Companies hiring people who learned in their basement will have an opportunity to hire people who were educated based on a curriculum that’s founded in hard science.”
“We anticipate that graduates of our program will be in a position to advance scientific and clinical research, support and educate patients, and help develop well-informed policies to shape the future of medical cannabis use.”
University of Maryland
The University of Maryland School of Pharmacy is offering a master’s degree in medical cannabis, which is a major step for cannabis education in the U.S. The program, known as The Master of Science (MS) in Medical Cannabis Science and Therapeutics, stated in a press release that its goal is to “provide students with the knowledge and skills needed to support patients in the medical cannabis industry, add to existing research in the field, and develop well-informed medical cannabis policy.” The program is the first-of-its-kind to offer a master’s degree in cannabis, and it will cover issues such as public health, science, clinical use and cannabis laws on the state and national levels.
“The goal of the MS in Medical Cannabis Science and Therapeutics program is to provide students with a broad knowledge of what’s currently known about the science and therapeutic use of the cannabis plant as well as an understanding of the legal and regulatory landscape related to research and use of medical cannabis,” said Leah Sera, PharmD, MS, BCPS, assistant professor of pharmacy practice and sciences at the University of Maryland School of Pharmacy and director of its Master of Science in Medical Cannabis Science and Therapeutics degree program, to CULTURE. “We anticipate that graduates of our program will be in a position to advance scientific and clinical research, support and educate patients, and help develop well-informed policies to shape the future of medical cannabis use.”
University of Mississippi
The University of Mississippi Medical Center is conducting a very important study on children with severe epilepsy. For the investigation, researchers looked at 10 Mississippian children with serious seizures. The study began in 2018.
“[We are] targeting the sickest of the sick. The early parts of this research are targeted at making sure this is tolerable by children who have failed all other medical therapies,” Dr. Brad Ingram, a pediatric neurologist, told Mississippi Today.
This research is important, because scientists and doctors are seeking to understand as much about medical cannabis for epilepsy as possible. For many youth, this is the only medicine that helps relieve their symptoms without a lot of side effects.