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Ole Miss creates master’s program on medical cannabis, set to begin next fall

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Coming to the University of Mississippi next fall will be a brand new online graduate program focused on medical cannabis and dietary supplements.

The new Master of Science in Dietary Supplements and Medical Cannabis will build on findings taking place in the university’s internationally acclaimed cannabis research center, the program’s director David Colby said in a release.

“Our goal is to create one of the best programs — if not the best — to serve the industry, and it really builds off our strengths,” Colby said.

Whether students aspire to influence government regulations, advance research, lead product innovation or excel in the dietary supplement or medical cannabis sectors, officials say the program will equip students with a multidisciplinary foundation for a successful career.

“With these industries growing in our state and our country, this program is designed to ensure the workforce is well-trained and has the knowledge and skills to be effective and contribute to these industries,” Donna Strum, dean of the university’s pharmacy school, said. “This new online program promises to open up a world of opportunities for those looking to advance their careers in these industries.”

The National Center for Natural Products Research at Ole Miss primarily serves the dietary supplements industry, while the National Center for Cannabis Research and Education, created in 2021, is built on the back of the National Institute on Drug Abuse cannabis program that has been at the school since the 1960s.

As Mississippi has recently joined the growing list of states legalizing medical cannabis, the university will contribute to the highly regulated medical cannabis industry. This encompasses dispensaries, growers, researchers, and product developers by providing a thorough education.

According to the univeristy, the dietary supplements industry is also growing as consumers seek products promoting well-being and the support of overall health. No other institutions in Mississippi offer such a program and only a handful exist nationwide, though Colby acknowledges that the program at Ole Miss will be more unique than others in the nation.

“They’re mostly focused on training pharmacists and health care professionals how to manage patients on medical cannabis and how to help train patients who want to know about therapeutics. We want to train them in the chemistry, the biology, and the toxicology,” Colby continued.

“We’ll be teaching about plant genomics and formulation and manufacturing, as well as regulation. We want to train people who want to work in those industries, not necessarily a pharmacist who wants to recommend the correct cannabis product.”

With full accrediattion expected by the end of the calendar year, officials are already discussing how they can expand cannabis-based studies to the undergraduates.

The school plans to launch a one-year graduate certificate in dietary supplements in the fall of 2025, followed by a one-year certificate in medical cannabis in the fall of 2026. The following year, the school plans to unveil a Doctor of Pharmacy-Master of Science dual degree program that mimics its successful Pharm.D.-MBA dual degree program.

Enthusiasm has been strong for the upcoming master’s degree program. With only 30 spots available, there are already 50 students on the waitlist — the first time Colby has had more prospective pupils than enrolled.

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