BOULDER, CO — A first-of-its-kind series of classes at CU Boulder will explore marijuana in-depth. The four-course series is intended for clinicians, patients, industry professionals and anyone who is curious about medicinal cannabis.
Some of the topics will include: how marijuana can help people with chronic pain and diseases, which strains are best for certain conditions and how people can use it to reduce risks and maximize benefits.
The course series will be taught by CU Boulder Psychology Professor Kent Hutchison.
“Legalization has led to unprecedented access to cannabis, a projected $60 billion industry by 2025, and one of the fastest growing job sectors in the economy. Yet even today there is very little evidence-based information out there for people wanting to weigh pros and cons,” Hutchison said in a media release. “People are hungry for knowledge and this is designed to fill that need.”
The series will include video lectures by Hutchison, readings and guest interviews with scientists and health care practitioners from around the country.
Hutchison, a pioneer in cannabis research, said he came up with the idea for the course after his own family members ran into road blocks trying to get reliable information about medical marijuana.
Hutchison’s 70-year-old mother traveled to Colorado from Oklahoma in 2014 seeking information about using cannabis to treat her chronic pain. Each dispensary she went to gave her different, often conflicting, advice, Hutchison said.
Then in 2016 his partner, CU Boulder Psychology and Neuroscience Professor Angela Bryan, was diagnosed with Stage 3 breast cancer. When she sought advice from her doctors about possibly using cannabis to address pain and side-effects from her treatments, “they shrugged their shoulders and said ‘we have no idea what to tell you,'” Hutchinson said.
“People are not getting information from health care providers or public health officials,” he said. “Rather, they are getting it from the internet, social media and other sources that aren’t always reliable.”
The specialization consists of four courses, each about four weeks in length with an expectation of two to five hours of work per week. Students can move through at their own pace, the university said.
The series will cover the plant’s history and chemical make-up, the latest research on its health impacts for various conditions, and advice — such as starting with a lower dose of THC and increasing it slowly if needed — on how to reduce side-effects.
“We’re trying to help people avoid the common situation where they take too much and have a bad reaction,” Hutchison said.
Assignments include going to a dispensary to ask questions about quality control and asking a physician what they know about THC and CBD. Hutchison said he hopes to see everyone from bud-tenders to doctors earn the specialization and “display their certification proudly.”
The classes will also be available on the global online learning platform Coursera. The platform’s users can audit some elements of the specialization for free; however, those who want to earn a certificate of completion must subscribe for $49 per month until they’ve completed the courses and submitted coursework for a grade. The specialization will also be included in the CU on Coursera program soon, allowing students, faculty and staff to earn the completion certificate at no cost, the university said.