A marijuana leaf.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
A first-ever academic course in the use of medical cannabis, recognized by the Council for Higher Education, has been launched by Ariel University.
It was initiated by Dr. Michael Dor, a senior lecturer in health systems at the university’s Faculty of Health Sciences. Dor is also a chief adviser of the Health Ministry, family medicine specialist and a former senior ministry official.
Course requirements are very rigorous, said Dor; 117 students were accepted into the course and scores had to be turned down. The course includes the history and current status of medical marijuana, its legal background and regulation, the active ingredients in the drug, clinical uses including in the field of psychiatry, cannabis farming, the various technologies used to provide the crop (including start-ups that present innovative developments in the field), changes in attitudes to it, moral dilemmas and more.
The course is designed for students in the field of medical administration, after they have completed one year of study at least. Priority was given to those who have experience in the health sector.
In recent years, the use of medical cannabis has been gaining momentum. As it has been in use for thousands of years, the pharmaceutical companies cannot patent it, thus preventing them from conducting medical research on it. But most of its properties are known.
Many of its medical properties are known and have been used for a long time. Some of the obstacles to approval and legal use of medical cannabis are due to the stigma of the marijuana plant as a non-serious drug, less risky than alcohol and nicotine, but one that leads to the use of hard drugs – even though no scientific evidence has been found to substantial this claim. Yet there are no scientific studies that examined its benefits and side effects.
Today, cannabis use in Israel for recreational and other non-medical uses is illegal, like the use of heroin and cocaine. But tens of thousands of patients with pain, lack of appetite, nausea and other problems have been licensed by the Health Ministry to use it. As patients benefited, more began to demand that cannabis be made legal.
One of the problems lies in the fact that cannabis is popular for social purposes and that the private use of medical cannabis results in leaks into the black market.
The course will be taught by Dor, who is highly respected in the health system. Students will meet the representative of the Anti-Drug Authority, who are expected to voice their position against social uses of cannabis but do not oppose its wider use for medical purposes.
Israeli researchers have had a major impact in the field, as the Hebrew University’s Prof. Raphael Mechoulam was the first to identify the active ingredient of cannabis and made more discoveries that aroused interest around the world.
While it does not treat cancer, cannabis can reduce the side effects of cancer treatments.
It can also ease epilepsy in children. There is evidence that it can also ease the effects of fibromyalgia. Each month, a committee of senior doctors present evidence of its effects in their particular fields.