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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

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The legalization of marijuana is an enormous change for Canadians. The impact has had a cascading effect across many industries including: law enforcement, education, transportation, healthcare, pharmaceuticals, and legal services.

This shift in policy represents new opportunities for scientific research to help us understand how cannabis works and how it effects those who consume it. 

In partnership with the Peter Boris Centre for Addictions Research and the Michael G. DeGroote Centre for Medicinal Cannabis Research, McMaster is excited to announce one of the first evidence-based, post-secondary programs focused on "The Science of Cannabis."

The purpose of the program is to provide a substantive grounding in the scientific study of cannabis and the evidence base pertaining to its therapeutic applications as well as potential risks and harms. 

The Science of Cannabis - Program Overview

Dr. James MacKillop, Director of the Peter Boris Centre for Addictions Research, and Director of the Michael G. DeGroote Centre for Medicinal Cannabis, oversees the course development for the Science of Cannabis program and provides a comprehensive overview of what participants can expect to learn.

Course # 1 - Fundamentals of Cannabis Science

Dr. Michael Amlung discusess the importance of a well-rounded approach to understanding the chemistry and biology of cannabis.


Course # 2 - Risks and Harms of Cannabis

Dr. Iris Balodis discusess how the course will review possible risks, harms, side effects and potential benefits of cannabis use and misuse.


Course # 3 - Therapeutic Applications of Cannabis

Dr. Jason Busse discusess how to separate fact from fiction with regard to what therapeutic benefits cannabis can provide patients and how clinicians can better understand the research.



  • Earn a 3-course academic Certificate of Professional Learning (9 units)
  • Convenient online platform
  • Open enrolment, no application required
  • Learn from expert instructors and researchers
  • Connect with professional peers across disciplines

Learning Objectives

The program is designed to prepare graduates to be critical thinkers about medicinal and non-medicinal cannabis use in healthcare settings and beyond. Graduates will be able to do the following:

  • Demonstrate an advanced understanding of the nature of the cannabis plants, the therapeutic applications of cannabis, and the risks associated with cannabis.
  • Identify the different plant species and diverse botanical constituents comprising the cannabis genus.
  • Articulate the fundamentals of the endocannabinoid system and its relationship to other major neurotransmitter systems in the brain.
  • Describe the historical evolution of cannabis use and the shifting regulatory frameworks. 
  • Explain psychiatric nosology, the nature of cannabis use disorder, and other psychiatric disorders that are associated with cannabis.
  • Evaluate the links between cannabis use and accidental injury/death, lung disease, psychotic disorders, abnormal brain development, and diminished lifetime achievement.
  • Describe the GRADE system for evaluating the evidence basis of medical interventions.
  • Apply the GRADE system for evaluating the evidence basis for the use of cannabis for treating a medical condition.
  • Identify the medical conditions for which cannabis may have a curative or palliative role.
  • Critique the cost-benefit ratio for cannabis in the context of its therapeutic effects and adverse side effects. 

Who should take this program?

Healthcare Professionals

- Physicians
- Nurses
- Psychologists
- Pharmacists
- Researchers

Social Services

- Social Workers
- Counsellors
- Therapists

Public Sector

- Teachers
- Police Officers
- First Responders
- Public Health

Watch the latest Program Preview to learn more: