OXFORD, Miss. (WJTV) – The University of Mississippi created a new online graduate program focusing on medical cannabis and dietary supplements, leaning on the university’s long-standing reputation for expertise in both fields.

The new degree program builds on the expertise and research excellence within the National Center for Natural Products Research and the National Center for Cannabis Research and Education, both housed in UM’s School of Pharmacy. Donna Strum, Dean of the School of Pharmacy, sees the promise in the new Dietary Supplements and Medical Cannabis program. 

“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,” Strum said. 

Organizers of the new Master of Science in Dietary Supplements and Medical Cannabis program, housed in the pharmacy school, expect to receive full accreditation by the end of this year. Officials plan to accept students into the program thereafter.

The internationally renowned National Center for Natural Products Research 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.

Mississippi recently joined the growing list of states legalizing medical cannabis. The university plans to contribute to its highly regulated medical cannabis industry. This encompasses dispensaries, growers, researchers and product developers. The dietary supplements industry is also booming as consumers seek out products promoting well-being and the support of overall health.

No other institutions in the state offer such a program and only a handful exist nationwide, though David Colby said even those are operating in a different space educationally. Colby is the program’s organizer and a professor in the school’s Department of BioMolecular Sciences. Colby championed the program’s uniqueness among the few that exist in the country. 

“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,” Colby said. 

The program will officially launch in the fall of 2024 and offer rolling admissions. 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 fall of 2026.