Masterclass Medicinal Cannabis 2018

2018 was an eventful year for Canada; not only did they legalize recreational use of cannabis but the Masterclass Medicinal Cannabis took place for the first time outside of Leiden. This was a great opportunity to share valuable information about all aspects of medical cannabis to Canadians and anyone else who was willing to join us in from the 28th of October to the 2nd of November in Ottawa.

For those who are not familiar with the Masterclass Medicinal Cannabis, it is a 5-day intense course on all aspects of medical cannabis presented by some of the most renowned cannabis experts. As Dr. Arno Hazekamp, the founder creator of this course, likes to put it; it is a guided tour into cultivation, research and development of medical cannabis, a meet and greet with diverse professionals, and a place where you can ask questions, share insights and learn from other cannabis enthusiasts.

Ottawa, here we come!

The timing of the Masterclass was strategically planed, just a 2 weeks after Canada just legalized the recreational use of cannabis. Now, one expect that this meant you could legally buy cannabis in specialized shops – one would be wrong. To my surprise, the local government decided to only allow the selling of cannabis trough online stores, as brick and mortar stores would be allowed to operate only from April 2019. Despite these limitations, as predicted by many, there was a shortage of cannabis and cannabis products, and most shops, that actually were allowed to sell, run out of products in just a few days. We have seen this scenario happening in many times and yet nobody seems to learn from it.

The venue was the Novotel hotel, situated in downtown Ottawa right next to a labyrinth 4-story mall, where I got lost a few times, and the delightful ByWard market, full of restaurants, delicatessen and grocery stores. The weather was a bit gloomy, not ideal for sightseeing but good enough for keeping us in the classroom, where the learning commenced.

The program

The Masterclass is divide in to 5 main sections or the 5 P’s; Plant, Product, Patient, Physician and Policy. Each presentation was talking about one of the 5P’s

From top left to right: Dr. W. Brent R. Pollock , Nick Pateras and Dr. Ernie Small

This year we had the opportunity to listen to learn from some of the most influential cannabis experts (Dr. Ernie Small, Dr. John McPartland, Dr. Jahan Marcu), with a particular emphasis on Canada, as many presenters were locals (Prof. Lakshmi P. Kotra, Dr. Caroline MacCallum, Dr. W. Brent R. Pollock ), who provided us with specific insights on the Canadian cannabis situation (Mike McGuire, Dr. Bruno Battistini).

From left to right Dr. Bruno Battistini, Dr. Chris Spooner and Dr. Caroline MacCallum

Of all the great presentations and presenters, I will mention just two that stayed in my mind; Dr. Mike Dixon and Dr. Chris Spooner.

From left to right: Tal Lupo , Yewande Okuleye and Mike McGuire

Dr. Mike Dixon took us on a journey into the future, as alluded in the title of his presentation “Applications of Space Exploration Technologies in Medical Cannabis Production”. Most of us already know, that for producing standardized medical cannabis (cannabis flos), it has to be grown in a closed environment where you can monitor all the environmental aspects and achieve homogenous growing conditions. This is due to the fact that phytocannabinoids and terpenes are secondary metabolites, that the plant produces as an adaptation to environmental factors. Mike has taken this to another level with the help of space technology to finely tune and monitor, every aspect of plant growth and the impacts these changes can have on plant morphology and the production of secondary metabolites. Light, CO2, oxygen, nutrients, water, temperature, and air quality, are all important factors, that can be modulated, to achieve stability and maximal yields of the desired constituents. It was fascination to see, how different wavelength of light, in different areas of the plant, had such a profound effect on the production of certain cannabinoids, terpenes and terpenoids. I am confident, that the implementation of this type of technology will greatly improve the standardized medical cannabis quality.

From top left to right: Joscha Krauss, Gregor Zorn and Dr. Mike Dixon

Dr. Chris Spooner presentation “Integrative Cannabinoid Therapeutics” gave us an insight into the endocannabinoidi system as a master regulator of our body’s homeostasis and how, via different mechanisms, we can help it in its important task. Several studies have shown that nutritional deficiencies can impair ECS function and integrating omega-3 fats, vitamin d and methylated B vitamins, can improve the overall efficacy of this crucial system. The gut microbiome also has an essential role in health, as these beneficial microorganisms have important roles in various aspects of our health. It is refreshing to see a doctor with such a holistic approach and I wish more physicians would embrace this kind of integrative treatment, that has been successfully used for centuries but was systematically eradicated and replaced by modern age allopathic treatment.

From top left to right Miri Ogintz, Prof. Lakshmi P. Kotra and Roy Upton

The information that all the presenters delivered was highly appreciated by the class of 2018 and they also had the possibility of continuing the conversation with the speakers, further deepening the knowledge of all the interesting cannabis subjects.

Filed trip to Smith Falls

The last day of the Masterclass is reserved for a visit to a licensed producer. Usually the visit was to Bedrocan’s facility in the Netherlands, but this year, being in Canada, we visited Canopy Growth and its facility in Smith Falls, just an hour away from Ottawa.

Bruce Lipton, the CEO of Canopy Growth at Smith Falls
The visit to Tweed

Bruce Linton , the CEO of Canopy Growth, introduced us to the Canopy’s beginnings, its current situation and future plans. We had a tour of the various rooms, where cannabis is cloned, grown and made into its final products. We also took a tour of the Cannabis museum, where I found myself teaching the guides about the ECS, cannabinoids, terpenes and their interactions.

Being the last day of the Masterclass, we had a farewell dinner, where besides having a great time, the students of 2018 also got their certificates, officially adding them to our Masterclass family.

Conclusion and MMC 2019

Once again, the Masterclass 2018 was a fantastic event, a gathering of old friends and new acquaintances, full to the brim with interesting information, people and a time to enjoy likeminded professionals with cannabis as the glue that held it all together.

What about the future? The Masterclass Medicinal Cannabis will return in 2019, this time expanded to both continents.It is still too early to divulge the details so be sure to follow this blog and the Masterclass page for updates.

The Masterclass Medicinal Cannabis 2018 Reunion

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.

Masterclass Medicianl Cannabis 2018

The venue

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!

The program

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.

Cannabis worldwide (left to right) Joscha Krauss (MH medical hemp), Dr. Ricardo Fereirra (SBEC) and Zena Prokosh (Zreyas Consulting).

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;

  1. The place of origin of the cannabis plant
  2. Its presence in Europe
  3. The one species, two species, indica-sativa nomenclature dilemma

His conclusions:

  1. The northeastern Tibetan plateau
  2. Older than we previously thought
  3. 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.

Three masters of cannabis research (left to right) Dr. Arno Hazekamp (Hazekamp Herbal Consulting), Dr. John Mc Partland (University of Vermont) and Dr. Rudolf Brenneisen (University of Bern).

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.

Blue shirts in action (left to right) Dr. Jahan Marcu (ASA), Mark Lewis (NaproReserch) and Gregor Zorn (ECTA).

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.

Blockchain meets medical cannabis education (left to right) Lorenzo Rolim Da Silva (Brazil), Jerome McCormick (Ireland) and Dr. Gastene Zanette (University of Padua).

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.

MMC 2018

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. **