How it all started
The idea to organize a course on medicinal cannabis was born in the summer of 2010. At that time I was temporarily living in the northwest of the US, where the (now so abundant) cannabis industry was just getting started. Marijuana testing labs were popping up here and there, and the first folks were carefully talking about this interesting cannabis compound called CBD. Everyone seemed to have ideas about what the future of medicinal cannabis would look like. But because cannabis research was still in its infancy, many questions about quality, safety and responsible use of the cannabis plant remained unanswered.
‘Teach me about cannabis research’
One day during lunch at a local University, my friend Ryan asked me to teach him about cannabis research. As a student in plant science and a passionate cannabis activist, he was concerned with the difficult choices that patients face while looking for the best cannabis medicine. His wish was to understand the cannabis plant from a more scientific basis, and eventually open a reliable testing lab to determine the composition of cannabis samples. Would I be willing to share my experience and stories with him, introduce him to the right people, and allow him a short internship in my analytical lab in The Netherlands?
Right moment, right place
During the six years of my PhD research (2001-2007, Leiden University, The Netherlands) I had learned amazing things about cannabis cultivation, chemistry, administration forms, legislation and history. Unlike most other people in the world, I was able to do this all in a legal and professional setting, under the medicinal cannabis program of the Dutch Government. I had worked with universities, Government officials, pharmaceutical companies, licensed cannabis producers, and registered patients. My PhD thesis provides a great overview of the various topics I experienced during those inspiring years. I understood that such experience were quite unique, and very useful to people like Ryan, who were trying to make the best of medicinal cannabis. However, teaching one person at a time takes a lot of time, so why not teach a larger group all at once? The idea of the Masterclass was born.
2011 – the first Cannabis Masterclass
The Masterclass Medicinal Cannabis was designed to distribute reliable information about the medicinal use of cannabis as accurately and widely as possible. To further this mission, we always invite key opinion leaders from around the world to be speakers at the Masterclass. Since its first event in 2011, the Masterclass has hosted over 100 participants from more than 30 different countries. Lawyers, growers, students, professors, pharmacists and patients: all participants had an important professional link to the medicinal cannabis revolution that has taken place over the last decade. After students and speakers parted ways after their own Masterclass experience, many of them stayed in touch over the years. The Masterclass family was slowly taking shape
2018 – a reunion and a Canadian edition
After 6 editions of the Masterclass we decided it was time to contact all Masterclass alumni, and see how they had been doing since their Masterclass experience. Did they reach their goals? Had they become key opinion leaders in their fields? Did they have interesting experiences of their own to share? About 35 former students found their way back to The Netherlands in the summer of 2018. During three wonderfully sunny days in the lush botanical gardens of Leiden, each shared their personal experiences, struggles and stories from around the world. The students had become the teachers, forming a network of professionals that kept in regular contact with each other.
In the same year we felt that the Masterclass was ready for some international expansion. And what better choice than Canada, with a mature medicinal cannabis program, and its intention to be the first G7 country to fully legalize recreational use. In the fall of 2018 the first Canadian Masterclass was organized in Ottawa. Representatives of Health Canada opened the course, and we made a visit to the cultivation site of Canopy Growth in Smith Falls. A new country means interesting new perspectives and different kinds of speakers. It was a great experience that we will repeat probably in Vancouver in late 2020
2019 – a Masterclass for Business
Not everyone has the time to spend 5 full days on attending classes and listening to detailed scientific background stories on cannabis and cannabinoids. In fact, some of us have a business to run. So early 2019 we came up with the idea of a shorter and less detailed version of the Masterclass. In a 3-day course, we would share a more practical version of the scientific presentations, and invite speakers who we in canna-business themselves. What better than to hear about the successes, failures, struggles and solutions of those entrepreneurs who were in the business already. We called it the Masterclass Medicinal Cannabis for Business. Two editions were organized in 2019, with 12-15 students each, and more of these event will be organized about twice each year.