The University of Maryland graduated its first class in a masters’ program that studies medical marijuana in May.
Some recent graduates, like veteran Catrena Almnote, are now using their new degrees to help others combat troubles with mental health.
Almonte said she had trouble transitioning from serving in the Navy and serving as a military chaplain within the Army National Guard to studying medical cannabis.
“The military's posture is zero tolerance,” Almonte said. “It was really really tough for me to wrap my brain around this concept, but it was good for me to find this program because this program really allowed me to see cannabis from all of these perspectives.”
With her new degree, Almonte recently finished the manuscript for a book on cannabis. She’s also working on a pilot for a cannabis ecotourism television series.
Almonte received her Master's in Medical Cannabis Science and Therapeutics from the University of Maryland, Baltimore. The program is the first graduate program of its kind in the nation. Leah Sera, the program’s director, said that the program focuses on the pharmacology and pharmaceutics related to cannabis medicine.
“We also provide education on what we know about the therapeutic benefits of the cannabis plant, and we also introduce students to the many different policies and regulations related to medical cannabis,” Sera said.
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The program is focused on patient care rather than cannabis cultivation. Classes are online with an annual in-person symposium at the Universities at Shady Grove through the University of Maryland, Baltimore.
This degree could be for a healthcare professional looking for more education in medical cannabis or someone who is interested in working in a lab setting to improve the quality of medical cannabis. It could also be for someone wanting to develop related government policy.
"We are making the courses accessible to students who may not have taken a chemistry course since high school,” Sera said. “But we are also making it interesting to our students who already are chemists or pharmacists.”
In the fall, Almonte plans on earning her doctoral degree in clinical psychology to learn more about working in cannabinoid therapy for veterans suffering from PTSD.
“I started this thing with a passion for veterans and wanting to understand PTSD,” Almonte said. “Eventually, after I’m done with that, I’d like to be able to offer cannabinoid therapy as well as other therapies, effective treatment modalities, to my veterans, my fellow brothers and sisters in arms.”