April 2024

University of Maryland Pioneers MSW and Medical Cannabis Science Program to Address Growing Need for Medical Cannabis Therapy

April 19, 2024    |  

With the increasing recognition of the therapeutic benefits of cannabis in treating various medical conditions, the University of Maryland School of Social Work (UMSSW), in collaboration with the School of Pharmacy, announces this dual graduate program, the only one in the country, MSW and Medical Cannabis Science and Therapeutics Post Baccalaureate Certificate. This initiative aims to meet the escalating demand for professionals equipped with the knowledge and skills to navigate the complex landscape of medical cannabis therapy.

As of 2024, 38 states have legalized cannabis for medical use, reflecting a significant shift in attitudes towards the therapeutic potential of cannabis in the U.S. This trend underscores the urgent need for healthcare professionals trained in the responsible and effective implementation of medical cannabis therapy.

The integration of medical cannabis education into the Master of Social Work (MSW) curriculum responds to the pressing need for qualified individuals capable of addressing the evolving challenges and opportunities within the medical cannabis industry. As attitudes towards cannabis shift and its potential benefits become more apparent, there is a growing imperative to equip healthcare professionals with the expertise necessary to responsibly and effectively incorporate medical cannabis therapy into patient care.

“Blending medical cannabis education with social work education is essential as we address the changing needs of the health and mental health landscapes of our world,” said Judy L. Postmus, Ph.D., ACSW, dean of UMSSW. “As our views of cannabis evolve and as we recognize the possible benefit in therapeutic settings, we urgently need educated practitioners to navigate these settings in a professional and wholistic way.”

Under this pioneering program, MSW students will have the opportunity to pursue a Post Baccalaureate Certificate in Medical Cannabis Science and Therapeutics, enhancing their capacity to advocate for, assess, and administer medical cannabis treatments within a social work framework. By bridging the disciplines of social work and medical cannabis science, this program acknowledges the holistic nature of healthcare and the importance of addressing both the physical and psychosocial dimensions of patient well-being.

“There are so many benefits for students participating in this dual degree program, including learning about the policy and practice aspects of cannabis science, gaining interprofessional competencies, and engaging with students from many different professions to form a network of practitioners interested in this field”, states Joan Pittman, PhD, MSW, LCSW-C, clinical professor and director of the MSW Program at Shady Grove.

The Graduate Certificate in Medical Cannabis Science, Therapeutics, and Policy equips students with a comprehensive understanding of cannabis pharmacology, clinical applications, historical context, and legislative frameworks. By providing a solid foundation in these areas, the program empowers graduates to navigate the complexities of medical cannabis therapy, ensuring safe, evidence-based, and ethically informed care for patients.

“Social workers are likely to engage with patients who are using cannabis either medically or non-medically, as well as those expressing curiosity about its effects,” said Chad Johnson, PhD, co-director of the Masters in Medical Cannabis Science and Therapeutics and assistant professor in Pharmaceutical Sciences. “That's why it's so important for social workers to possess a comprehensive understanding of the scientific principles underpinning cannabis and its therapeutic applications, enabling them to engage with patients more effectively."

Prospective students interested in the Graduate Studies in Medical Cannabis at the University of Maryland School of Pharmacy are encouraged to reach out to mcst@rx.umaryland.edu for further information.