Australia’s First Med School Course on Cannabis to Launch in Victoria

Victoria’s Deakin University is on track to offer Australia’s first-ever medical school course on cannabis in light of a recent announcement by Cann10, an Israeli cannabis start-up accelerator that will deliver the new course.

Dubbed the Medicinal Cannabis Leadership Program, the eight-week program aims to give students an overview of the cannabis plant, its medical applications, and the industry developing around it. You won’t get a degree at the end of it, but participants will be awarded a certificate of accomplishment.

If you’re keen, classes start in August.

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The course is based on programs Cann10 has run in Israel and the United States, which have a strong commercial focus. According to the company, the program will “provide a comprehensive approach to cannabis education including historical, cultural, legal/regulatory, commercial, chemical and agricultural aspects.”

Botany, agriculture, cultivation, clinical science, manufacturing, and R&D will also be addressed during the intensive program.

Deakin University School of Medicine Dean Jon Watson endorsed the program while at the same time acknowledging that some have been surprised at the new offering.

“This is very unusual,” he said, “but also fit for purpose.”

Cann10 says it has recruited prominent figures from the cannabis industry in Australia and around the world to deliver lectures. Speakers include Peter Crock, the CEO of Australian Cann Group Ltd, which was the first company to be granted a commercial cultivation licence for medical cannabis; Phil Warner, managing director of Ecofibre; director of Zelda Therapeutics Mara Gordon, as well as a number of respected academics and researchers.

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The hope is that participants will graduate with knowledge of the industry “as well as practical tools to help build their commercial and scientific projects.” Participants are also encouraged to network with the aim of accelerating growth in an industry still prone to dramatic regulatory shifts.

With a price tag of $6,200 (USD $4,600) before tax, the program isn’t cheap. It will run in partnership with the Deakin’s new commercial arm, DeakinCo.

Deakin University has a mixed history with medical cannabis. In 2015, academics from the university published a groundbreaking paper exploring the potential for cannabis to treat obesity. But the same year, a clinical lecturer at Deakin, Dr. Michael Vagg, wrote critically about medical cannabis. “Simply put,” he wrote disparagingly, “THC-derived products are about as useful as paracetamol [acetominophen] for pain.”

In 2016 the university published a debate article on its content site, This, which reductively described medicinal cannabis as “using illegal substances to treat medical conditions.”

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The announcement that Deakin will partner with Cann10 to deliver the Medicinal Cannabis Leadership Program indicates a shift in the university’s messaging.

Deakin isn’t the only university in Australia hoping to capitalize on commercial cannabis. In October 2016, Sydney University hosted Seedlings, an event that brought together entrepreneurs, patients, doctors, and researchers to hear cannabis start-up pitches and brainstorm the future of the medical cannabis industry. Smaller institutions such as the Cannabis Training University are also positioning themselves to take advantage of the trend, offering what’s billed as a Master of Marijuana Certification for $199.

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