Pubdate: Wed, 20 Sep 2017
Source: Globe and Mail (Canada)
Copyright: 2017 The Globe and Mail Company
Author: Simona Chiose
Page: A1


College and university graduates will be able to earn a certificate in
cannabis production starting next fall, when Niagara College will
launch Canada's first accredited program in the field.

The program will begin months after the deadline imposed by the
federal government for legalizing production, distribution and sale of
the weed that is eventually expected to generate $8-billion in annual
sales. With regulations not yet in place for legalized marijuana, the
program may have to shift with politics.

"We heard that the licensed producers need highly skilled,
well-trained individuals who know more than how to grow two or three
plants in a room somewhere," said Al Unwin, the associate dean of
Niagara College's School of Environmental and Horticultural Studies.
"They need a graduate who knows how to create a healthy crop in a very
large facility and a graduate who is aware of the regulatory reality,"
he said.

Some of the courses offered in the eight-month program include
cannabis production, plant science, laws and regulations, and post
harvest treatment.

At $10,000, the tuition is a substantial investment, but the college
says it will prepare students to work in a booming industry. The
school will accept 25 students.

Several North American institutions already have similar
cannabis-focused courses, including Kwantlen Polytechnic University in
British Columbia and a less formal 14-week program at Oaksterdam
University, in Oakland, Calif. But Niagara College - which has 9,000
full-time students - is the first post secondary institution to fire
up a year-long program promising to train graduates for jobs in the

Niagara's program was developed over the past year and approved within
a month by the Post -secondary Accountability Branch, a division of
Ontario's Ministry of Advanced Education and Skills

"This is really what colleges were set up to do 50 years ago, to
respond to a clear human capital labour market need," Mr. Unwin said.

It is not clear whether the federal government will meet its July 1,
2018, deadline to legalize recreational marijuana. The Liberals have
introduced a bill, but they are still facing questions from the
Canadian Medical Association and political opposition from the
Conservatives. A recent Globe and Mail investigation found that
questions about oversight and quality control among some of Canada's
58 licensed medical marijuana producers continue.

When recreational cannabis is legalized, it is expected to generate
sales of as much as $8-billion and up to $22-billion when associated
industries, such as marketing, security and tourism, are counted.

"We are looking at an industry that is just at the beginning now,"
said Jordan Sinclair, the director of communications for Canopy Growth
Corp., Canada's largest licensed producer, which operates out of a
facility in Smith Falls, Ont.

"We were 50 employees and now we are 600 and we don't expect that to
slow down," Mr. Sinclair said.

Dozens of jobs are advertised on Canopy's website, from Web and mobile
application managers to merger specialists to greenhouse service
technicians. Having industry-specific knowledge could be a benefit,
Mr. Sinclair said.

"It's interesting to see the type of people who have gone that extra
step and taken the initiative to study in the cannabis field," Mr.
Sinclair said.

Still, many of the skills and knowledge required by the cannabis
industry are common to other sectors, particularly pharmaceuticals,
which face similar regulations, he added.

Niagara College says licensed producers in the region will help with
its curriculum development. In their second semester, students will do
a co-op work placement. But if students are hoping to gain admission,
informal experience producing the plant won't be considered. Instead,
the school is looking for students with a background in agribusiness,
agricultural sciences, environmental science/resource studies,
horticulture or natural sciences.

"We want people who have gone through an academic program, who are
properly trained, who understand that when you scale up you are going
to be facing challenges," Mr. Unwin said.
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