BURLINGTON, Vt. (AP) â€” As more states allow for the use of medical marijuana, the University of Vermont is offering a course in the science of the drug â€” & the professors say they are challenged by a lack of research on what has long been a taboo topic.
Other institutions have offered classes in marijuana law & policy, yet the university's medical school is likely the country's first to offer a full course on medical cannabis, according to the Association of American Medical Colleges. Other medical schools have touched on the topic.
"What we're trying to do with this course is to sort of demystify this whole subject matter, to try to treat this like any other drug, like alcohol or amphetamines or opioids," said Vermont pharmacology professor Wolfgang Dostmann. "Just demystify the whole thing & say what it is, what is going on with it, how does it work."
p>Twenty three-states, including Vermont, allow the use of medical cannabis for a range of conditions or symptoms from glaucoma to HIV & cancer, although the drug is still illegal under federal law.
The Massachusetts Medical Society, an accredited institution, is offering online medical marijuana courses including one on pharmacology, yet it's moreover limited because of the lack of research on the topic.
Medical cannabis is clearly a hot topic. Nearly 90 graduate & undergraduate students have signed up for the Vermont class, which is to start in the spring, forcing the professors to expand the classroom twice. The class is moreover open to the general public, allowing members of the Legislature, or those in law enforcement or medicine, to attend.
Alice Peng, a pharmacology graduate student who plans to go medical school, signed up because she's interested in the potential for marijuana to treat pain.
"I moreover do work in the cancer center in the hospital, & so I see a lot of cancer patients, & I would be really interested in seeing how it would assist their chronic pain," she said.
But the professors say they are hampered by a lack of access to high-quality research.
"There's so much information out there that's just hearsay," said Vermont pharmacology professor Karen Lounsbury.
The course will cover cannabis taxonomy; medical chemistry of cannabinoids, the chemicals found in marijuana; physiological effects of the drug; emerging therapeutic applications; & the historical, political & socioeconomic influences on marijuana legislation.
Dostmann, whose expertise is in pharmacokinetics, or how a drug works in the body, & Lounsbury, who focuses on the body's physiological & biological response to a drug, will teach some of the course.
Students will moreover benefit from what's happening with marijuana in Vermont.
A university research affiliate & head of a Vermont medical marijuana dispensary will discuss the plant's biology. An associate business professor who is part of a Vermont think tank working to develop technology to research uses of medical marijuana products will talk approximately economic impacts.
Students may moreover visit the Legislature, which is expected to discuss legalizing marijuana for recreational use.
Books exist on the science of marijuana, yet they moreover cover topics like how to clean pipes or cook with the plant, not what the university wants to teach students. So Lounsbury & Dostmann plan to write their own textbook for future studies.
And if the class attracts stoners, the professors hope it will motivate them to study pharmacology. Above all, they hope they can raise awareness approximately a potentially useful drug.
"Without having enough clinical trials," Lounsbury said, "we won't really know whether this is applicable or whether it is a snake oil."
This story has been corrected to show the name of the organization is the Association of American Medical Colleges.
Source: “Associated Press”