Lifelong Learning for a Brighter World

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The Science of Cannabis

Separate fact from fiction.

A collaborative program involving the Peter Boris Centre for Addictions Research, the Michael G. DeGroote Centre for Medicinal Cannabis Research, and McMaster Continuing Education

SCC 103 - Risks and Harms of Cannabis C21

Academic Credit Value:
3 units
Course Delivery Mode:
Hours of Study:
39 hours
Course Prerequisite(s):
Course Anti-requisite(s):
Instructor Name:
Iris Balodis
Course Dates:
01/18/2021 - 03/28/2021

Required Course Materials:
All materials are available online or through McMaster Library
Optional Course Materials:
Course Description:
Cannabis is a psychoactive drug that is established to have a variety of risks and harms. This course will review the strength of evidence behind the different risks associated. Priority topics are impairment leading to accidents; cannabis misuse/cannabis use disorder; associations with anxiety, depression, and schizophrenia; effects of cannabis on cognition and brain development; and adverse consequences for lung health. Finally, the course will review guidelines for reducing risk when consuming cannabis and evidence-based practices in the treatment of cannabis use disorder.
Learning Outcomes:
1. Describe cannabis use disorder in detail
2. Explain brain, cognitive and motivational changes associated with heavy cannabis use
3. Discuss and evaluate the evidence linking cannabis with psychotic disorders
4. Critically evaluate the portrayal of cannabis harms in popular media
5. Access and interpret scientific articles on cannabis harms
6. Describe relationships between cannabis use and other physical health disorders
7. Communicate complex scientific information to a non-expert audience.
Course Evaluation
Quizzes – 17.5% (7 x 2.5% each)
Discussions – 10% (2 x 5% each)
Media Article Summary & Critique – 20%
Research Article Comparison & Critique – 20%
Create an e-Learning Module – 30%
Key Takeaways Exercise – 2.5%
Course Format:
This course is designed to present the fundamental concepts and theories in the risks and harms of cannabis and promote the application to the workplace and professional practice. Course activities will include instructor presentations, required readings and experiential learning activities (i.e. case studies, group discussions, projects, etc.).
Assignment Submission:
Course assignments are submitted to the appropriate A2L Assignment folder by the specified due date
Late Coursework:
Late assignments will be subject to a 2% per day late penalty (includes weekends and holidays) for up to seven (7) days. After this date, no assignments will be accepted and a grade of zero (0) will be applied. Extensions for course work must be approved by the instructor before the due date (see Academic Regulations below), and will be granted for illness or emergencies only. Students may be asked to submit supporting documentation for an extension request. 

Policy & Procedures:

Academic Regulations (Attendance, Coursework, Tests/Exams):
In accordance to McMaster University’s General Academic Regulations, “it is imperative that students make every effort to meet the originally scheduled course requirements and it is a student’s responsibility to write examinations as scheduled.” Therefore, all students are expected to attend and complete the specific course requirements (i.e. attendance, assignments, and tests/exams) listed in the course outline on or by the date specified. Students who need to arrange for coursework accommodation, as a result of medical, personal or family reasons, must contact the course instructor within 48 hours of the originally scheduled due date. It is the student’s responsibility to contact the Program Manager to discuss accommodations and procedures related to deferred tests and/or examinations within 48 hours of the originally scheduled test/exam, as per policy. Failure to contact the course instructor, in the case of missed coursework, or the Program Manager, in the case of a missed test/examination, within the specified 48-hour window will result in a grade of zero (0) on the coursework/exam and no further consideration will be granted.

*Note: Supporting documentation will be required but will not ensure approval of accommodation(s).
Academic Integrity
You are expected to exhibit honesty and use ethical behaviour in all aspects of the learning process. Academic credentials you earn are rooted in principles of honesty and academic integrity. Academic dishonesty is to knowingly act or fail to act in a way that results or could result in unearned academic credit or advantage. This behaviour can result in serious consequences, e.g. the grade of zero on an assignment, loss of credit with a notation on the transcript (notation reads: “Grade of F assigned for academic dishonesty”), and/or suspension or expulsion from the university.

It is your responsibility to understand what constitutes academic dishonesty. For information on the various types of academic dishonesty please refer to the Academic Integrity Policy, located at

The following illustrates only three forms of academic dishonesty:
Plagiarism, e.g. the submission of work that is not one’s own or for which other credit has been obtained.
Improper collaboration in-group work.
Copying or using unauthorized aids in tests and examinations.
Academic Accommodations:
Students with disabilities who require academic accommodations must contact the Student Accessibility Centre (SAS) to meet with an appropriate Disability Services Coordinator. To contact SAS, phone 905-525-9140 ext. 28652, or email For further information, consult McMaster University’s Policy for Academic Accommodation for Students with Disabilities.
On-line Elements:
In this course, we will be using on-line elements, which may include email, Avenue to Learn, WebEX, and external web sites.  Students should be aware that, when they access the electronic components of this course, private information such as first and last names, user names for the McMaster e-mail accounts, and program affiliation may become apparent to all other students in the same course. The available information is dependent on the technology used. Continuation in this course will be deemed consent to this disclosure. If you have any questions or concerns about such disclosure please discuss this with the course instructor.
In this course, we will be using a web-based service ( to reveal plagiarism. Students will be expected to submit their work electronically to and in hard copy so that it can be checked for academic dishonesty. Students who do not wish to submit their work to must still submit a copy to the instructor. No penalty will be assigned to a student who does not submit work to All submitted work is subject to normal verification that standards of academic integrity have been upheld (e.g., on-line search, etc.). To see the Policy, please go to McMaster Academic Integrity Policy.
Course Changes:
The instructor reserves the right to modify elements of the course and will notify students accordingly.
Course Withdrawal Policy:
Policies related to dropping a course and course withdrawals are posted to the Continuing Education’s program webpage, FAQs & Policies (
Grading Scale:


Equivalent Grade Point

Equivalent Percentages








































Course Schedule:

Module and Topic(s)

Assignments/Graded Components

1 – Introduction and Overview

Quiz (2.5%)

2 – Cannabis Use Disorder

Quiz (2.5%)

3 – What Mental Functions Are Affected By Cannabis?

Discussion (5%)

4 – Cannabis and Motivation

Quiz (2%)

Media Article Summary & Critique (20%)

5 – What Brain Changes Occur With Cannabis Use?

Quiz (2.5%)

6 – How Does Heavy Cannabis Use Affect Mental Health?

(2-week module)

Quiz (2.5%)

Research Article Comparison & Critique (20%)


7 – Everyday Health Effects and Drug Interactions with Cannabis

Quiz (2.5%)

8 – Cannabis Use and Driving

Discussion (5%)

9 – Summary and Future Directions

Create an e-Learning Module (30%)

Key Takeaways Exercise (2.5%)