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University of Colorado Boulder

History of Medical Cannabis

University of Colorado Boulder via Coursera


This History of Medical Cannabis course is designed to have you think critically about past, present, and future research on the health effects of cannabis by developing a more nuanced understanding of the barriers to research as well as different approaches to research. You will learn about the history of cannabis cultivation, the legal history of cannabis or "marijuana", and the obstacles that led to the lack of science on its medicinal use. You will also learn how to critically evaluate research on the effects of cannabis and discuss the associated risks of using cannabis in the context of public health and epidemiological research. Finally, you will learn about how to administer cannabis products in ways that minimize risk and maximize any potential benefits. Obtaining this knowledge will be helpful in terms of informing public policy, public health, and personal decisions regarding the use of cannabis products.


  • Introduction to Course and to Cannabis
    • In this module, we will discuss the biological characteristics of cannabis and the effect cannabinoids have on the body. Will will cover the basic pharmacology of THC and CBD and the action these cannabinoids have in the brain. Lastly, we will evaluate the evidence for what is called the entourage effect.
  • History of Cannabis
    • In this module, we will discuss the history of cannabis as an alternative medicine and the legal history of cannabis in both the US and abroad. We will discuss the variety of different product types post-legalization, how products are made, and implications for safety. We will also discuss the cannabis industry and how it compares to other mature industries like the pharmaceutical and alcohol industries.
  • Barriers to Research and How to Evaluate Research
    • In this module, we will discuss the legal barriers to institutional research in the US and how this has impacted conducting much-needed cannabis research. You will learn the difference between high quality, rigorous research design compared to biased sources of information. Lastly, you will learn how the placebo effect works and evaluate how much of a role it plays with regards to the medical benefits of cannabis.
  • Risks Associated with Cannabis Use
    • In this module, we will review the animal and human literature with regards to the effects of cannabis in the brain. We will discuss the epidemiology of cannabis use and review public health data. Lastly, we will discuss the best practices for using it medically, such as to minimize the risks and harms while maximizing the benefits.

Taught by

Kent Hutchison


4.8 rating at Coursera based on 310 ratings

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