President's Dream Colloquium on Understanding Medical Marijuana

Colloquium Course

The invited list of speakers will cover a breadth of topics related to the production, genetics, pharmaceutical properties and biochemical pathways of cannabinoid production in marijuana. In addition, the students will learn about the physiological responses of the human body to cannabinoids, including the role of receptors, response of the brain, and applications for pain management. The manner in which marijuana may be utilized to relieve the symptoms of various clinical problems, and various types of pain, and the mechanism of action, will be discussed. The response of the brain to marijuana in relation to creativity, anxiety, and other mood disorders, will be reviewed. Finally, the legal aspects of marijuana, in terms of regulations over a controlled substance, and the potential for decriminalization and deregulation, as well as public policy, will be discussed. 

Instructor: Dr. Z.K. Punja, Department of Biological Sciences, Professor

Course Outline

Related Talks on Cannabis

* Neuropsychiatric Effects of Cannabis.pdf
Igor Grant, MD | Source:
* Marijuana as Medicine.pdf
Igor Grant, MD | Source:
* The Health Effects of Cannabis & Cannabinoids.pdf
US National Academy of Sciences | Source:

Course Objectives and Learning Outcomes

After having completed the course, students should be able to:

  • Describe the general requirements for growing of marijuana plants to meet Federal requirements 
  • Summarize the criteria established by Health Canada for approval of sale of products containing medical marijuana
  • Compare the criteria used in distinguishing hemp from marijuana 
  • Discuss the relevance of the marijuana genome sequence 
  • Be familiar with key steps in the cannabinoid biosynthetic pathway in plants 
  • Describe the general pharmacological effects of cannabinoids on the human body 
  • Discuss the relevance of cannabinoid receptors and drug therapy
  • Describe general brain responses to marijuana intake and addiction 
  • Discuss how marijuana can be used to treat diverse conditions 
  • Discuss the current trends in pain management with marijuana 
  • Summarize the current discussions on efforts for legalization of marijuana 
  • Provide a personal perspective on the costs/benefits of marijuana use for medical purposes

Weekly Topics Covered

  • An overview of marijuana - Instructor 
  • Marijuana production to meet Health Canada standards - Invited speaker 
  • Marijuana and hemp genomics and genetics - Invited speaker 
  • Applications of biotechnology for marijuana improvement - Instructor 
  • Pharmaceutical and medical properties of marijuana - Invited speaker 
  • Clinical applications of marijuana - Instructor 
  • Brain responses to marijuana - Invited speaker 
  • Physiological responses to marijuana - Instructor 
  • Using marijuana to treat neuropathologies - Invited speaker 
  • Marijuana and beahvioural changes - Instructor 
  • Neurology, creativity and marijuana - Invited speaker/student presentations 
  • Marijuana for pain management - Invited speaker/student presentations 
  • Legal issues around marijuana use - Invited speaker/student presentations

Evaluation of Student Performance

  • Participation in discussions on assigned readings: 10% 
  • Group presentations: 40% 
  • Poster preparation and display: 50% 

For group presentations, students will work in groups of 4 to research and present to the class the findings from a a specific topic relating to any of the weekly topics covered in the course. The students will highlight the findings they have made, prepare an analysis of the work they have researched, and collectively present the work as a group. 

For poster presentations and display, students will work individually and research in-depth a topic of their choice and prepare a conference quality poster for display to the general public during the last week of class (April 6). The posters will be evaluated by a panel of judges and students will be present to address any questions. 

Reading List

  • Bottorff J.L., Laura J.L. Bissell, Lynda G. Balneaves, John L. Oliffe, N. Rielle Capler, Jane Buxton. 2013. Perceptions of cannabis as a stigmatized medicine: a qualitative descriptive study. J. Harm Reduct J, 10:2 
  • Caulkins, Jonathan P., Angela Hawken, Beau Kilmer and Mark A.R. Kleiman. 2012. Marijuana Legalization: What Everyone Needs to Know. Oxford University Press. 
  • Di Marzo V., Stella, N., Zimmer, A. 2015. Endocannabinoid signalling and the deteriorating brain. Nature Rev. Neuroscience, 16: 30-42. 
  • Filbey, F.M. and Dunlop, J. (2014). Differential reward network functional connectivity in cannabis dependent and non-dependent users. Drug and Alcohol Dependence 140: 101-111. 
  • Filbey, F.M., and Yezhuvath, U. (2013). Functional connectivity in inhibitory control networks and severity of cannabis use disorder. American Journal of Drug and Alcohol Abuse 30: 382-391. 
  • Flaherty, A.W. 2011. Brain illness and creativity: mechanisms and treatment risks. Can J Pychiatry, 56: 132-43. 
  • Russo, E.B. 2011. Taming THC: potential cannabis synergy and phytocannabinoid-terpenoid entourage effects. Brit J Pharmacol, 163: 1344-1364. 
  • Russo, E., Alice Mead, Dustin Sulak. 2015. Current status and future of cannabis research. Clin Res 58-59. 
  • Sawler, J., Jake M. Stout, Kyle M. Gardner, Darryl Hudson, John Vidmar, Laura Butler, Jonathan E. Page, Sean Myles. 2015. The Genetic Structure of Marijuana and Hemp. PLos One. DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0133292. 
  • van Bakel, H., Jame M. Stout, Atina G. Cote, Carling M. Tallon, Andrew G. Sharpe, Timothy R. Hughes and Jonathan E. Page. 2011. The draft genome and transcriptome of Cannabis sativa. Genome Biology. 
  • Ware MA, Ziemianski D. 2015. Medical education on cannabis and cannabinoids: Perspectives, challenges and opportunities. Clin Pharmacol Ther. 97:548-50. 
  • Ziemianski D, Capler R, Tekanoff R, Lacasse A, Luconi F, Ware MA. 2015. Cannabis in medicine: a national educational needs assessment among Canadian physicians. BMC Med Educ. 15:52.