ROCKVILLE, MD (CBS News) – Some students study engineering or business in graduate school. Now they can also major in marijuana.
This fall the University of Maryland School of Pharmacy launched the first program in the country to offer a master's degree in medical cannabis and therapeutics.
"There is a significant need for medical cannabis education," Dr. Natalie Eddington, who is the dean and teaches several courses within the online curriculum, explained.
Eddington said the program appeals to novices and professionals. It covers everything from drug policy to clinical care.
While students aren't directly exposed to the marijuana plant, which is illegal under federal law, they will learn about the science behind the compounds that are found in it, like THC and CBD.
"We'll talk about how they're metabolized,” Eddington said. “We'll talk about potential drug-drug interactions that might take place between THC and a drug, or CBD and a drug."
Brandon Coleman is one of 150 students enrolled in the two-year program. He is a purchasing manager at Greenhouse Wellness dispensary, but his passion for the cannabis industry began when he became a patient to treat his epilepsy.
Coleman aspires to head operations or sales at a vertically-integrated company and believes his personal experience gives him a different approach to the business.
"That's a unique perspective because I can take what I use on a daily basis and apply it to other people's conditions," he said.
Some form of marijuana use has been legalized in 33 states and the District of Columbia. Business is budding, with the number of full-time cannabis jobs expected to surpass the 200,000 mark this year, according to the 2019 Marijuana Business Factbook.
Coleman says the knowledge gap within the industry is "huge” but believes that after graduation students will be better equipped.
"Whether it's passing out information to other peers, patients, or just doing what they can to change regulations, change policy in the United States as well."