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UMB plans medical cannabis graduate degree

The commission overseeing Maryland’s nascent medical marijuana industry will release Wednesday the names and rankings of the top-20 grower applicants and top-30 processor applicants. But those not selected also would like to see information about how applicants were selected, such as the scoring and evaluation of each application. (Thinkstock)

The University of Maryland, Baltimore has proposed a Master of Science in Cannabis Science and Therapeutics. (Thinkstock)

The University of Maryland, Baltimore would become the first university in the country to offer a graduate degree in cannabis therapeutics under a proposal granted preliminary approval Tuesday by a committee of the University System of Maryland Board of Regents.

Already a billion-dollar industry, medical cannabis is a lucrative and fast-growing field that has a need for experts. Medical cannabis is legal in Maryland. 

“There are no other master of science programs in medical cannabis,” Leah Sera, who presented the program to the regents, said. “It is going to set the bar for programs that follow in terms of innovation and excellence. And the University of Maryland could be known nationally or even worldwide as a center of excellence in medical cannabis training.”

After receiving approval from the Education Policy and Student Life Committee, the proposed program moves on to the full Board of Regents. It must also be approved by the Maryland Higher Education Commission.

The program targets a broad swath of the industry, including health care practitioners, scientists and policy professionals.

“Graduates of this program will be able to support patients in Maryland and the medical cannabis industry with expertise regarding the science and therapeutics of the cannabis plant,” Sera said. “They will also be able to add to existing clinical and scientific research, as well as contribute to the development of well-informed policy related to medical cannabis.”

The University of Maryland, Baltimore also took pains to make sure that the program meets legal muster.

“This program has been extensively reviewed by the attorney general’s office to be certain that it is compliant with Maryland and federal law,” said Bruce Jarrell, the university’s provost.

Regent D’Ana Johnson said she was originally inclined to vote against the proposal but was swayed by its merits and by the presentation. Another regent, William T. “Bill” Wood, voted for the program but suggested that the program add the word “medical” to ensure that there was no confusion that this was not related to recreational marijuana.

The proposal calls for a two-year program where students would earn 30 credits toward a Master of Science in cannabis science and therapeutics. The program would be based in the university’s graduate school, with heavy support from the School of Pharmacy.

The learning would take place in what is called a “blended” approach of using both in-person and online classes as well as live and recorded materials.

The program would be mostly based at the Universities at Shady Grove but include some classes at the university’s main Baltimore campus.

If all approvals are granted, the university plans to begin offering the program this fall.

Other programs approved

The Education Policy and Student Life Committee advanced three other program proposals to the full Board of Regents.

Towson University wants to add two master’s programs to its fine arts catalog: a Master of Arts in dance instruction and a Master of Music in music pedagogy.

Bowie State University hopes to add a Bachelor of Science in chemistry, something that has become more feasible since it opened a new science building two years ago.

The program at the historically black college could add more black chemists to a field where they have very little representation.

Johnson admitted during the discussion about the program that she had originally wanted to get her bachelor’s in chemistry, but the organic chemistry class inspired her to pick law instead. Still, she was excited about the prospects of the new program.

“When I read this proposal, I wrote in the margins, ‘Yes! Yes! Yes!’” she said. “We need to make sure they graduate and that we have a big, big wide open area for black chemists in our country.”

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