This year, the University of Guelph in Ontario, Canada, launched an online course named Cannabis Production. It’s aimed at people who grow cannabis both commercially and at home. This university has one of the largest agricultural studies programmes in Canada.

The University of Guelph's coat of arms. Photo: University of Guelph

The University of Guelph’s coat of arms. Photo: University of Guelph

The Canadian cannabis industry needs formally trained people

Canada was only the second country on Earth to legalise cannabis. (Uruguay took first place.) It hence has the opportunity to be the industry leader. Following legalisation, the market is booming. Concomitantly, there’s a demand for people with formal training in cannabis production; the university’s website described its course as designed for entry-level positions. Examples given were customer service representative, cultivation technician, grower, packing technician, processing technician, production technician, quality assurance associate and retail store manager. At present, knowledge all-too-often comes from anecdotes and poorly designed experiments.

Just what the course covers

Teaching will be at the hands of post-graduate student Brandon Yep. Covered will be such cannabis production basics as lighting, irrigation, pests, disease management, curing and packaging. Included will be talk of the history of cannabis and medicinal benefits of the plant. A statement by Yep read: “This course will clarify fact from myth” by providing information about cannabis production that’s backed up by science.

The course runs from 9 September to 1 December 2019. The cost is CAD545 (£335). 60 students made it fully enrolled. From January 2020, there will be courses in cannabis regulations and quality assurance, with the first sign-ups occurring in October 2019. Workshops are already available from the university in association with Cannabis Compliance Inc, the largest grower of cannabis in the world.

More groundbreaking cannabis research at the university

In 2017, researchers at the University of Guelph published what was quite possibly the first North American scientific paper on improving medicinal cannabis production. It appeared in the journal HortSciences. Professor Youbin Zheng groused, “There has been no science guiding this industry.” Proper scientific research was lacking, he insisted, because the growing of cannabis was illegal. With Professor Mike Dixon and PhD student Deron Caplan, Professor Zheng looked into the optimal fertiliser rates and soilless growing substrates to grow cannabis with a greater yield of medicinal components. This research was part-funded by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada.

The team has now turned its attention to lighting and irrigation. According to Professor Dixon, lighting in particular affects the concentration of cannabidiol, which is beneficial to health but sadly non-intoxicating. In recent years, even US Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who has stridently condemned the plant, indicated that he favoured increased research into cannabis.

The Cannabis Growers Club

While not the first course in cannabis cultivation (that was this one), not many are online. The University of Guelph is possibly the only fully accredited university in the world to boast a club dedicated to the growing of cannabis. It opened shortly before the legalisation of cannabis in Canada on October 17 2018. Only university students, staff and alumni can join. There are currently 136 members.

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