Understanding medical cannabis: SUNY Empire’s new online course

SUNY Empire has offered the online course every spring semester since 2018. It’s intended for students pursuing human services careers, jobs that include a range of advocates, from social workers and counselors to government workers and nonprofit employees.

“It’s a very complex topic,” said Joanne Levine, the course’s lead faculty member and an associate professor in SUNY Empire’s Department of Health and Hhuman Services. “The more you delve into it, the more you find.”

Levine first entered medical cannabis research as a scholar in residence at Realm of Caring, a Colorado-based nonprofit dedicated to educating on and providing access to medical cannabis.

People may use medical cannabis for many different reasons, including for conditions like epilepsy, Huntington’s disease, Parkinson’s and HIV/AIDS.

Encountering people who had to relocate to states like Colorado for legal access to medical cannabis changed everything for Levine, she said.

“Typically, we don’t think of refugees as being internal in our country, let alone for medical reasons,” Levine said. “The whole notion of somebody having to be a medical refugee was one that was really disturbing and intriguing to me at the same time.”



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