AUT will become New Zealand's first university to offer a postgraduate paper on medicinal cannabis.
From next semester (starting July 20), The Science of Medicinal Cannabis will be offered by AUT's School of Science.
The paper is described as Cannabis 101 for those interested in the medicinal cannabis industry, Dr Ali Seyfoddin, course leader and senior lecturer in drug delivery, said.
"Education is an important component of New Zealand's medicinal cannabis scheme and it's essential that research and education providers provide courses for those wishing to enter the industry. We have ongoing research on medicinal cannabis cultivation, extraction and formulation which will inform much of the course's content."
The course will introduce the medicinal cannabis scheme framework and provide a general overview of the chemistry and pharmacology of cannabis, including how to cultivate medical-grade cannabis, how to extract and analyse cannabinoids and how formulate medicinal cannabis products.
"This is a useful paper for any postgraduate student or healthcare professional interested in expanding their knowledge on medicinal cannabis. There will be theory and practical components although, with the ongoing Covid-19 situation, it may be run it as an online course," Seyfoddin said.
Chris Fowlie, chief executive of AUT's research partner ZeaCann, said the medicinal cannabis industry needs qualified staff with relevant expertise.
"This course will teach the skills needed to work in the field. Hundreds of new jobs are expected to be created, with the potential for medicinal cannabis exports to rival those of wine or wool.
"We're excited to help AUT deliver this course as part of our ongoing research partnership. Zeacann will leverage our extensive network of industry partners to provide practical content and access to global experts and key industry players."
ZeaCann's research and production partners include manufacturers, growers, processors, botanists, pharmacies, laboratory and extraction equipment suppliers, and a network of contract growers spanning all cultivation styles.
The move was also welcomed by Manu Caddie, the president of the New Zealand Medical Cannabis Council and co-founder of Rua Bioscience.
"It is great to see this intermediate-level course established at a New Zealand university," Caddie said.
"There are plenty of specialist courses in plant science, bio-technology, analytical chemistry and medicine at other universities but I think having this broad introductory paper will assist students in their decisions around which parts of the cannabis industry they are most interested in."
Caddie has a history in cannabis education, having been directly involved in the development of New Zealand's first cannabis cultivation course in this country through EIT Tairawhiti at the Ruatoria campus.
Through this programme, Rua Bioscience provided licensed locations for students and tutors to trial a range of growing techniques and since then a number of local Māori landowners have also become licensed and partnered with EIT to continue the course.
"We have had over 1000 enrolment enquiries from around the country since the course began, and for a community of only 800 residents that has been a bit overwhelming," Caddie said.
The course helped to boost employment in the region, offering work opportunities for both tutors and those providing housing for the students.
"The challenge now is to ensure there are real jobs out the other side of these courses whatever level they are delivered at," Caddie said.
Caddie said he is currently working with government agencies to ensure there are clear career pathways for those interested in joining the industry.
"It is such a diverse industry with a vast array of opportunities from genomics and breeding to precision horticulture, extraction engineering and biotechnology research," Caddie said.
"These are high-skilled, high-paying jobs and we need a number of government agencies involved in the development of a skilled New Zealand workforce to ensure we are able to be world leaders across the cannabis value-chain in an industry set to be worth over one hundred billion globally."
What the course includes:
• Introduction to medicinal cannabis: History and legislation
• Current New Zealand legislative framework for the cultivation and use of medicinal cannabis
• The New Zealand medicinal cannabis scheme
• Botanical aspects of cannabis, including breeding and cultivation of cannabis cultivars
• Pre-formulation processing of herbal cannabis
• Cannabinoid pharmacology, cannabinoid receptors and the endocannabinoid system
• The chemistry of cannabinoids
• Medicinal uses of cannabis
• Extraction of cannabinoids
• Analysis of cannabinoids
• Cannabinoid delivery systems and dosing