Right before the 29th ICRS conference, another event took place in the historic city of Leiden, the Masterclass Medicinal Cannabis® reunion. It was a 3 day gathering of all the 6 previous masterclass classes in the majestic setting of the Leiden botanical gardens.
The Masterclass Medicinal Cannabis® is the brainchild of Dr. Arno Hazekamp, a very well-known name to anyone in the cannabis scientific community, who has been studying medical cannabis for nearly 2 decades. It is a 5-day journey into all aspects of medicinal cannabis, presented by some of the most renowned cannabis experts.
84 participants form 28 different countries have shared this experience in the previous years, but this time, we got a chance to meet with all the past participants. This time, we also had the opportunity of having a presentation and share our work, passion and vision with the other attendees.
The MMC reunion was held in the north-eastern part of the Leiden botanical gardens, a green oasis in the middle of a vibrant city. Not only was the location magnificent, but also the gods were smiling upon us, as we had atypically sunny and hot weather for this time, with temperatures exceeding 25 degrees Celsius daily!
All 3 days were packed with interesting presentations from the masterclass team, students and special guests. A big part of the presentations was dedicated to the medical cannabis situations in various countries; Germany, Portugal, Switzerland, the Netherlands, Canada, USA, Brazil, Latin America and India. We also learned about blockchain technology, cannabis testing, cannabinoids and terpenoids, endocannabinoid dysregulation, and educational courses. It would take too long to write about all of the excellent presentations, so I am going to mention just two, form these year’s guest speakers.
The species issue
Dr. John McPartland was one of the invited keynote speakers and his presentation “New works of cannabis systemics – family, genus, species, subspecies” was a preview of the unpublished work that he also presented, partially, at the ICRS meeting.
John, in his typical historically accurate fashion, gave us a brief introduction on the history of the Leiden Botanical Garden (estd. 1590), it’s influence for botany and medicine in the seventeenth and eighteenth century, as well as its connections with the cannabis plant.
I could do a whole post just about this wonderful presentation (being a biologist I may have a slight bias) but to cut things short, the three main questions that stood out from his presentation were;
- The place of origin of the cannabis plant
- Its presence in Europe
- The one species, two species, indica-sativa nomenclature dilemma
- The northeastern Tibetan plateau
- Older than we previously thought
- C.sativa and C. indica, once and for all, are NOT different species; they are different subspecies or different varieties
I won’t spoil it too much for, if you want to deepen your knowledge into this subject I suggest you read his papers.
40 years of cannabis research
That is how long dr. Rudolf Brenneisen has been involved in cannabis research. With more than 50 publications stemming from his lab at the University of Bern, dr. Brenneisen was one of the pioneers of cannabis research and contributed to our better understanding of this healing plant.
In his presentation “My last 40 years of cannabis research: from forensics to clinics”, we got a glimpse on his work with cannabinoid analysis, cannabis fingerprinting and human pharmacokinetics.
I think his take home message “In contrast to the controlled therapeutic and recreational use of Cannabis, its research has a significant addiction potential!” is a great summery of how he feels about this this plant, it’s healing potential and his ongoing research.
What would Erasmus say?
I would also like to mention Vincent van Zuilen, a cannabis-naïve local historian, who had a presentation, “From Erasmus to cannabis: a historical review of innovation in the Netherlands”, on the first day, which took us on a journey into Leiden’s fascinating history. At the end of the day, he also had the task of reassuming the day’s presentations, from an outsider’s point of view.
And this is where he really shined.
His summaries were incredibly concise, fresh and hilarious, giving us cannabis geeks and insight of the how “the others” see us. “What would Erasmus say?” was the leading question, (Desiderius Erasmus Roterodamus was one of the greatest scholars of the Renaissance) and everything that followed was just a delight.
I also have to thank Vincent for taking his time and giving us a guided tour of the city and its most important historical parts. He could talk for hours about the rich history of this city and I could feel that he did this with utter dedication and passion of a true scholar.
Time to relax
Apart from the intensive presentation program, a big part of the Masterclass experience is socializing with other students. This often leads to expanding your social circle, making new friends and even new business collaborations.
One of the traditional social events of the Masterclass is going to the Grandcafé De Burcht, located just on the south slope of the Burcht van Leiden, a stone keep on a mote, strategically positioned at the junction point of the two Rhine rivers (Oude Rijn and the Nieuwe Rijn). If you want to see a panoramic view of Leiden, this is the place to do it, as it is one of the few elevated landmarks, in this otherwise mostly flat landscape.
This year, we also had the opportunity to party together at, as my friend Gastone charmingly named it, “Arno’s discotheque”, a cozy club, with a live DJ and lots of fun people. This was a perfect transition to the ICRS conference, which started the next day. But that’s a story, for another post.
This special edition of the masterclass was unique in many ways, while still keeping its core values of bringing together different people from different countries, who share a passion and a deep connection for this plant. I am very grateful to have been part of it and met so many fascinating people, which made this experience unforgettable. I am already looking forward to the next event, to once again meet old friends, make new ones and learn more about my favorite plant.
Wait, what about the 2018 Masterclass? Being a year of firsts, the 2018 edition of MMC will for the first time take place in another city, on another continent.
From the 28th of October to the 2nd of November the Masterclass Medicinal Cannabis® is reallocating to Ottawa, Canada. The choice of this new venue is particularly significant, as the 17th of October is the date, that Canada will officially legalizes the recreational use of cannabis. This is a historical event as it is the first G7 country to do so and it will be interesting to see, how the rest of the world will react. Hopefully it will be a stepping stone to cannabis legalization worldwide. Hopefully.
* I would like to give a shout-out to the students of the 2017 masterclass,who came to the reunion; Antony, Igna, Jerome, Diego, Miri, Yewande, Avnish, Lorenzo, and Nedy. *
** I would also like to give a shout-out to the “Blue Blanket Crew” – they know who they are, no names needed. **