PRINCESS ANNE, Md. — As medical cannabis has made its way from the debate floor to federal and state legislation, a professor at the University of Maryland Eastern Shore has joined a group of scientists, health care professionals, attorneys and entrepreneurs who have earned the first master’s degrees in medical cannabis science in the nation.
The program aims to set standards for clinical information and assist in continued research to build the science behind the fast-growing industry.
Dr. Madhumi Mitra, a tenured professor of biological and environmental sciences at UMES, graduated from the two-year, project-based program at the University of Maryland School of Pharmacy in Baltimore on May 21.
She was among 132 members of the first cohort of the program offered virtually through the school’s Shady Grove campus in Rockville.
Dr. Mitra, who holds a doctorate in botany, seized the opportunity to “learn how different plants could be used for medicinal purposes” when the program was announced in 2019.
“I wanted to study more about the pharmacology, chemistry and genomics of this plant,” she said in a prepared statement. “I was also interested in understanding the policies and laws pertaining to cannabis.”
The master’s program announcement came on the heels of the start of UMES’ Industrial Hemp Pilot Research Program. Dr.Mitra and colleagues in the departments of agriculture and engineering became interested in designing accompanying research projects.
“Our research group is initiating a research project in the areas of automated hemp cultivation and are in the process of setting up a series of experiments on the impacts of hemp growth and content of its cannabinoids and terpenes with response to parameters such as light and nutrients,” she said.
Besides conducting research, Dr. Mitra is willing to share her knowledge with her home university.
Dr. Mitra will be teaching an experimental course, “Cannabis: Medicine, Culture, and Law,” for the fall 2021 semester geared primarily to seniors in the departments of natural sciences, and agriculture, food and resources sciences.
It may also appeal to students in the university’s physical therapy, pharmacy and physician assistant programs, she said, and to graduate students working on hemp-related projects.
“With the expansion of the legalization landscape of medical and adult-use cannabis, many universities have started certificate and degree programs. I think UMES’ unique strategic position to conduct multidisciplinary hemp research would benefit from offering undergraduate and graduate degree programs,” Dr. Mitra said. “Also, post-baccalaureate certificates in hemp sciences and plant medicines with a focus on medical cannabis for dispensary staff and medical cannabis card holders would be a great way to start educating people and generate awareness of the tremendous benefits this plant could offer.”