Students of Australia's first medicinal cannabis course will learn everything there is to know about the plant, short of ingesting the thing.
There won't be any visits to secret cultivation facilities, but architects of the new eight-week course at Deakin University will teach best-practice in growing, extracting and manufacturing medicinal cannabis in Australia.
Dr Henry Pinskier, chair of a new Australian business launching the program called Cann10 Australia, said there was still a "distinct lack of awareness" within Australia's health sector about the laws governing the use of medicinal cannabis (it varies widely between states), methods of manufacturing it, and how it can be prescribed.
This is despite reports of a rising number of patients asking for medicinal cannabis prescriptions to treat pain, he said.
"There is an overall lack of knowledge, training and education in this space, while there is increasing community interest, government activity and slowly increasing amounts of research across the sector," he said.
The course will examine the "whole continuum of medicinal cannabis," he said, from the science behind the product, the outcomes of clinical trials, and growing commercial opportunities in the global billion-dollar industry.
It will be open to students and professionals in medicine, science, agriculture and commerce, who will study under industry figures including Peter Crock, the chief executive of Cann Group, Australia's first company to receive a licence to cultivate medicinal cannabis, and Phil Warner, director of Ecofibre, a leading industrial hemp company.
Program director Rhys Cohen, said studying the genetic diversity of the plant and the conditions in which it grows effectively, will be examined in the course, which is yet to be accredited.
"It's not hard to grow cannabis, but it's hard to grow cannabis in a manner that achieves consistent results," he said.
"There is a huge body of knowledge around which light systems to use, which nutrients is best for different strains, and the different PH levels and humidity required for different outcomes … it's about finding ways to standardise that to ensure we're getting the same results when you grow a type of cannabis."
Medicinal cannabis was made legal in Victoria early last year, and is already being used in trials involving children with epilepsy.
New federal government changes have loosened importation laws and boosted local supply, giving patients faster access to the product.
Australian researchers are now running trials on the use of medicinal cannabis in palliative care and chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting. But Professor Milton Cohen, director of professional affairs for the Australian New Zealand College of Anaesthetist's (ANZCA) faculty of pain medicine recently told a meeting of pain specialists that evidence in support of medicinal cannabis is "not good enough".
He warned that the very "modest" benefits medical cannabis have been "oversold" to the public.
Head of Deakin University's School of Medicine, Professor Jon Watson, said more research was needed before integrating medicinal cannabis into undergraduate medicine programs.
He wrote in an endorsement letter for the Can10 course that his faculty "sees the need for appropriate and rigorous training standards for the use and application of medicinal cannabis as a priority concern for medical professionals."
Cann10 Australia is an offshoot of Can10 – an Israeli medical cannabis education company. The program will be run out of Deakin Co, the corporate training arm of Deakin University.