Hamilton

New McMaster cannabis program aims to give people the facts about weed

McMaster University has launched a new "science of cannabis" program — which the school says is one of the first post-secondary programs in Canada that focuses on the science of pot, alongside its benefits, risks and harms.

Online program is hosted by McMaster continuing education

McMaster University has launched a new continuing education program focused on cannabis. (Richard Vogel/The Associated Press)

McMaster University has launched a new "science of cannabis" program — which the school says is one of the first post-secondary programs in Canada that focuses on the science of pot, alongside its benefits, risks and harms.

It's a three-course program offered entirely online through McMaster continuing education, and is available to people working in the health, education, public service, and social and community services sectors across the country. These are people who will deal with marijuana on the front lines, but also be responsible for forging policy change about it.

Dr. James MacKillop, director of the Michael G. DeGroote Centre for Medicinal Cannabis Research, says the program has been created to combat a lack of concrete information about marijuana and its effects on people.

"I think the misinformation about cannabis is greater than any other drug," MacKillop said.

In interviews both leading up to and post legalization, doctors and researchers have bemoaned a lack of concrete science about cannabis.

We're just trying to give students the facts.- Dr. James MacKillop

Sarah Konefal, a research and policy analyst with the Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction, said as much in an interview with CBC News last week.

"Cannabis was illegal for a long time. That made it difficult for researchers to gain funding and gain access to cannabis for research purposes," she said.

The first of course in the program, which is called "fundamentals of cannabis science," starts this May. It provides a broad overview about cannabis, including the plant's components, the types of cannabis people use and its affects on the body, as well as policy in Canada.

Other topics will include risks and harms, including links between cannabis and anxiety and depression, MacKillop said, as well as therapeutic uses.

"We're just trying to give students the facts," MacKillop said.

Dr. Lorraine Carter, Director of McMaster Continuing Education, said the school has already gotten a great deal of interest in the program from municipal organizations. Some of the early registrants are people who already work in the industry, she said.

"This is a way to make sure people have the right information," she said.

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