Soon it will be cool to graduate from Cannabis School – By Yvonne Sam

By Yvonne Sam

Formerly linked to impaired mental health cannabis is now bringing Canada untold wealth.

Sequential to Canada’s legalization of cannabis in October 2018, the industry has been steadily burgeoning. Statistics Canada claims that $5.7 billion has been spent on cannabis alone, making it a bigger sector than alcohol or tobacco. The majority of Canada’s 115 licensed weed producers reside in Ontario and British Colombia —with an additional 588+ applicants awaiting approval.

However, the challenge now being faced is that of finding experienced workers and cultivators in this relatively new industry. On a well-known job posting site, there are more than 500 full time jobs which run the gamut from basic entry level positions such as bud trimmer, to retail-store workers to executive roles, including director of international expansion and construction for Canada’s largest cannabis company, Canopy Growth.

The Director of Cannabis Council of Canada (C3), Allan Rewak, pointed out that the most crucial position to fill is that of master grower, to oversee all aspects of cultivation. The industry could add up to 150,000 jobs over the next several years, as reported by an estimate from Deloitte one of the Big Four accounting firms and largest professional services networks by revenue and number of professionals. According to an expert the number of jobs available is “legion” and that “it’s a great time to come into this new marketplace”.

There is also a litany of jobs that require even more specialized training, including attorneys, botanists, marketing professionals and electricians, to handle the unusual demands of the industry. Then, there are the jobs exclusive to cannabis, from grow masters and bud trimmers to master extractors. Two of the most in-demand jobs are dispensary manager and bud tender, roles that require extensive knowledge of the industry.

It is now blatantly apparent that the Canadian government carefully considered their plan to legalize cannabis in the land. They were certainly not joking about the fiscal benefits of legalized weed smoking, but while the preaching had been done, the same could not be said about the teaching. Plainly put a curriculum had to be designed on short order. From where would reputable teachers be found, seeing that marijuana had not been legal prior to October 1, hence experts would have gained their wisdom/experience while dealing with an illegal substance.

Training would be needed for the workers– growers, sellers, store managers; retail clerks etc. So, in response to the industry demands, Canada’s post-secondary institutions have introduced cannabis-centric education programs to train the next generation of industry leaders. “We haven’t built the perfect cannabis worker yet and we’re doing that together,” Rewak said.

In September 2018, Niagara College Canada launched what is now the country’s first post- secondary credential in cannabis production, preparing successful students for careers in Canada’s rapidly expanding industry. The program is organized around three core fundamentals: large-scale crop cultivation, legal issues, and business fundamentals. Twenty four students (including PhD candidates, scientists and engineers) who made up the first batch selected from 300 applicants will receive hands-on training in the biology and cultural practices of cannabis production including plant nutrition, environment, lighting, climate control, pest control, and cultivar selection.

Additionally the program will also equip students to maneuver the circuitous regulatory framework that governs the industry in Canada.

At least 11 post-secondary institutions in Vancouver, Calgary, Toronto, Nova Scotia and Montreal, have followed suit and added cannabis programs to their curriculae. More than six colleges offer diplomas in cannabis cultivation, and a few universities have introduced courses in cannabis business and law. These include Niagara College, Durham College, Vancouver’s Kwantlen Polytechnic University, Community College of New Brunswick, Loyalist College in Belleville, Ontario, University of Ottawa, St. Francis Xavier University, Ryerson, College of the Rockies in Cranbrook, British Colombia, Olds College, Alberta, and prestigious McGill University in Montreal, Quebec. Currently Mc Gill University is developing a degree in cannabis, which it will unveil in 2020. The Canadian program will prepare graduates to work at the master grower or management level of the industry. Students will learn about cannabis genetics and the legalities of the industry, along with how to optimize growing conditions for the plant.

It has suddenly become cool to attend cannabis school.

In the period prior to graduation, companies are looking for workers who have dealt with other highly regulated industries such as tobacco or alcohol. “Weed is safer but we need those people with skill sets and cautious points to come onto our teams,” C3 director Rewak said, adding that demand is high for anyone with marketing or pharmaceutical experience.

Interest in cannabis is also waxing among our U. S neighbors. According to Leafly, the largest cannabis information resource in the world, as of March 2019 legal cannabis has created 211,000 fulltime jobs in America. The Bureau of Labour Statistics ignores all jobs related to the industry, as cannabis remains federally illegal.  In fact according to, by 2020, cannabis will have a job creation rate of 110%. By whom are these jobs being filled? They are being filled more and more by graduates from colleges cropping up all across the U.S.  Legal cannabis is currently the greatest job creation machine in America.

Students from around the country can now enroll in a cannabis-centric medicinal chemistry program at Northern Michigan University which has grown to 230 students in just two years. The program provides a background in botany and analytical chemistry, following which students choose either an entrepreneurial or bioanalytical track. Graduates are expected, in part, to staff testing labs as part of the state’s newly legal cannabis market. Last fall, the University of California, debuted a graduate- level course, “Cannabis sativa: The Plant and its Impact on People.” The plant sciences class examines the health effects, risks and medical benefits of cannabis. The nursing field has also caught fire (all puns intended) in so much that the term cannabis nursing is now a recognized discipline.

It can be clearly seen that Canada’s legalization of the green has taken learning and earning to a totally new level.  It should not be forgotten that despite the seeming booming economy, the momentous step is still in its embryonic stage, with some areas requiring further ironing out.

The trajectory may soon change, for coming up on the sidelines are a slew of large licensed producers that have already began investing in synthetic and biosynthetic cannabinoid companies. The idea is relatively simple — instead of extracting cannabinoids from a cannabis plant to be put into oils, drinks, food, medicines and beauty products, compounds like CBD and THC can be created in a lab using either organic hosts like yeast and sugar (to create biosynthetic cannabinoids), or petroleum-based industrial chemicals that mimic the chemical structure of a cannabinoid (synthetic cannabinoids).

So as Canadians caught in the green rush head back to school, the industry must be carefully monitored as innovation in education may just be the catalyst for national ruination. In this boom there is lots of room, remember however that in  every boom there are winners and losers and extra learning is no  guarantee for  increased earning.  In the Klondike Gold Rush of 1896 and the California Gold Rush of the mid 1800’s, the smaller man implicitly maintained the upper hand.

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