Bridging the Gap: Why the U.S. Need Clinicians with Expertise in Medical Cannabis

Medical cannabis clinician using a tincture dropper.

July 1, 2022

Historically, the cannabis industry has been one of the most controversial in the United States. Although federal law has prohibited cannabis use and distribution since 1937, in the past few decades, many states have been experimenting with cannabis liberalization policies. From a legislative standpoint, 2021 was a phenomenal year for the industry, resulting in the legalization of cannabis for medical purposes in 37 states, 4 territories, and the District of Columbia.

Support for state-level cannabis legalization continues to grow

Over the past decade, the support for legalization has grown rapidly, even for recreational use. As of February 3, 2022, 37 states, 3 territories, and the District of Columbia allow the medical use of cannabis products. In addition, as of May 22, 2022, 19 states, 2 territories, and the District of Columbia have passed legislation to regulate cannabis for non-medical use.

According to a 2022 nationwide survey conducted by The Harris Poll of over 2,000 U.S. adults, 78% of Americans support cannabis legalization on a national level, and 84% think the federal government should allow more research on the therapeutic value of cannabis for chronic pain and other severe diseases. Undoubtedly, the vast majority of the U.S. adult population is in favor of cannabis legalization.

Research is backing up therapeutic benefits of cannabis

Evidence is mounting that the medical use of cannabis does indeed provide therapeutic benefits to a wide array of patients. For instance, according to a 2021 study by the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health, states that legalized adult-use cannabis saw a decrease in opioid-related emergency department visits.

A meta-analysis of nine published studies further demonstrates the positive effects of medical cannabis. The study authors found that “there was 64%-75% reduction in opioid dosage for medical cannabis (MC) users, and complete stoppage of opioid use for chronic non-cancer pain by 32%- 59.3% of MC users, compared to patients without additional use of MC.”

In addition, a comprehensive 2017 report by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine found “substantial evidence” that adults with multiple sclerosis-related muscle spasms can use cannabinoid medicines to improve their symptoms.

Demand for qualified cannabis healthcare professionals is on the rise

Industry experts predict that the legal market will increase from $3 billion to $143 billion by 2025. Fueled by the projected exponential market growth, demand for healthcare professionals with expertise in medical cannabis will likely skyrocket over the coming year.

Consequently, medical cannabis industry jobs are expected to soar from 70,000 to 700,000 by 2025, with an abundance of exciting professional opportunities.

However, it is important to remember that several studies show an educational gap related to medical cannabis, primarily among healthcare professionals. This means that the demand for more in-depth education is increasing among clinicians. As a result, the need for a knowledgeable workforce with expertise in the therapeutic effects, science, and business of cannabis is now on the rise.

Get your Master’s in Medical Cannabis Therapeutics at Pacific College

To bridge the gap between the growing cannabis industry and the ever-evolving science behind medical cannabis, Pacific College recently launched its Master of Science in Medical Cannabis Therapeutics program (MS-MCT). This graduate degree is specifically designed for clinicians looking to succeed in the cannabis industry as healthcare providers, advocates, educators, coaches, or entrepreneurs.

Timothy Byars, MS, is the Program Director of Cannabis Science and Therapeutics at Pacific College. According to Timothy, “Currently, some form of cannabis is legal in nearly every state. We’re optimistic that federal cannabis reform is forthcoming. Now more than ever, it’s critical that we address the cannabis educational gap in the medical community, because as more states adopt cannabis reform, more patients will use cannabis and healthcare professionals will treat these patients.”

One of the most exciting aspects of the new MS-MCT program is that graduates will be recognized for their medical cannabis science expertise and prepared to be leaders in this space. Upon graduation, clinicians can expect to know how to apply evidence-based, conceptual cannabis knowledge to clinical settings and use best practices to best help their patients.

MS-MCT Program Overview

Based on the demonstrated success of the distance learning model, the Master of Science in Medical Cannabis Therapeutics program courses are 100% online. With a combination of synchronous and self-paced formats, each seven-week course is comprised of live classes and asynchronous coursework.

Full-time students can complete the program in under two years – as few as twenty months. Live classes are delivered in real-time and strive to emulate an on-site classroom environment, with audio and video connections to faculty and students.

The curriculum consists of the following courses with a total of 30 credits:

Term 1

Introduction to Medical Cannabis History and Policy (3 credits)

Introduction to the Endocannabinoid System (3 credits)

Term 2

Therapeutic and Medicinal Uses of Cannabinoids, Terpenes, and Flavonoids (3 credits)

Advanced ECS and Cannabinoid Pharmacology (3 credits)

Term 3

Cannabis Research and Evidence-Based Literature Review (3 credits)

Ethics, Advocacy, and Public Health: Emerging Issues for Healthcare Professionals (3 credits)

Term 4

Adverse Effects, Product Safety, and Patient Recommendation Considerations (3 credits)

Cannabinoid Therapeutics I: Clinical Applications for Symptom Management (3 credits)

Term 5

Cannabis Therapeutics II: Clinical Applications for Chronic Conditions (3 credits)

Capstone (3 credits)


Despite some lingering uncertainties surrounding the cannabis industry, experts remain optimistic about its short and long-term future. Enrolling in the MS-MCT program at Pacific College will ensure students are ready to capitalize on the multitude of anticipated professional opportunities in the rapidly growing industry once they graduate.

Are you a prospective student who is interested in learning more about the MS in Medical Cannabis Therapeutics program?

For more information about the MS-MCT program, call (619) 574-0843 or fill out our contact form to be contacted by a Pacific College representative.

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