Hands with Purple Latex Gloves Holding Marijuana Buds

We spoke to two local post-secondary institutions — Durham College in Oshawa, Ont., and Loyalist College in Belleville, Ont. — about WHAT THEIR SCHOOLS ARE DOING IN THE CANNABIS SPACE. If it’s time for a career change, you just might want to consider the following courses.


Debbie Johnston, dean of the Centre for Professional and Part-time Learning

The Spark: What cannabis-related courses does the college offer?

DJ: The Centre for Professional and Part-time Learning at Durham College offers a five-course Recognition of Achievement program, as well as two additional courses in cannabis studies.

Marijuana Leaf

Cannabis Industry Specialization Program: This program was designed in partnership with industry leaders to provide crucial insights into the complexities of the rapidly evolving cannabis sector. It is ideally suited to those who already have business experience and are interested in preparing to shift their career into the business side (i.e. non-horticultural) of the medical or recreational cannabis industry in Canada. The cannabis industry is like any other, requiring individuals with skills in areas like accounting, HR, marketing, supply-chain management, etc. But it also requires an understanding of the industry itself, and that is the gap that this program is designed to fill. Many of our students with business backgrounds have gone on to successful positions in the industry after taking this program. The first four courses in this program are each two days in length and are delivered via Zoom — in other words, they are instructor-led and delivered in real-time via video conferencing. To participate, students must have a computer, webcam, and high-speed Internet access. The program includes the following courses: Medical Cannabis Fundamentals for Business Professionals: This introductory course looks at the history of the cannabis industry in Canada, basic regulatory and legal considerations, ethical issues, foundational clinical concepts, fundamentals of cultivation and quality control, medical uses of cannabis, insurance, and marketing. Cannabis Law and Ethics: Upon completing this course, participants will be able to locate current Canadian legislation relating to the medical and adult-use (i.e. recreational) markets. They will then apply this knowledge to concepts of production, promotion, packaging, and sales within the framework of maintaining full compliance. They will also discuss and debate important ethical considerations regarding the legalization of cannabis, such as use by minors, medical claims, pardoning past criminal records, and more.

Cannabis in the Adult-Use Market: Participants will develop insights into core customer groups as well as products and services within the adult-use market. Key points of differentiation between this market and the medical cannabis market are explored. The course explores various branding and distribution approaches and looks at how quality and price play key roles in the legal recreational market, which must compete effectively against illegal providers. In addition, the role of responsible adult use and consumer education in de-stigmatizing cannabis are examined.

Importing and Exporting Cannabis: This course introduces participants to the continually changing international cannabis landscape and its implications to Canadian cannabis companies for legally importing and exporting the product. It looks at the potential scope of international trade in cannabis, the implications of multinational treaties on importing and exporting cannabis, and it examines Canadian import/export procedures and requirements — not only for cannabis but also for hemp.

Cannabis Business Operations: There are five micro-courses within this course. Each of these is delivered asynchronously online without an instructor, which means that each one can be completed at the participant’s own pace. Each course is approximately three hours in length. The micro-courses address the structure of the industry, production facility management, processing and testing, finance and resource management, and cannabis tracking systems.

Legalization of Cannabis in Canada Course: This is a general education elective course (GNED) that’s available online to diploma students. Because we offer this course through OntarioLearn (a virtual organization that provides the infrastructure that allows students from one college to take online courses offered by others), it is available throughout the province. Students examine the history of cannabis in Canada, develop insights into the factors behind the decision to legalize it, discuss various cannabis regulations, and explore the dynamic infrastructure surrounding the legal recreational use of cannabis. The course is 42 hours in length, offered over a period of seven weeks (six hours/week).

Medical Cannabis Essentials for Health Professionals Course: This new online course (which launched in February) is tailored for health professionals who want to increase their knowledge of medical cannabis and how it relates to everyday practice. Participants learn the details of cannabinoids, terpenes, cannabis consumption methods, pharmacokinetic action, and how to select appropriate strains for clients. They learn the fundamentals of the endocannabinoid system, as well as how to analyze a medical cannabis treatment plan including dosing, titration, and identification of clinical risk factors. In addition, the viewpoints of provincial, federal and professional regulatory bodies and associations on cannabis use for medical purposes is also discussed. This two-day weekend course is delivered in real-time via Zoom.

This program was designed in PARTNERSHIP with industry leaders to PROVIDE CRUCIAL INSIGHTS into the complexities of the RAPIDLY EVOLVING CANNABIS SECTOR.

The Spark: Why did the college decide to start offering cannabis-related courses?

DJ: Durham College made the decision to begin developing cannabis-related courses in 2017, and our first course (Medical Cannabis for Business Professionals) launched in 2018. We made the decision to move into this area because of the very rapid growth of the industry and the employment opportunities that came along with this. Our extensive consultations with numerous industry leaders confirmed that they needed to hire individuals who not only had strong business skills but who also understood this unique industry. That’s why we made the decision to focus on the business aspects of the sector. The sector has continued to evolve over the years and we have continued to refine our courses to keep pace with those changes.

The Spark: What’s the interest level been like from students in these courses?

DJ: Our Cannabis Industry Specialization program has drawn great attention and strong registration levels since it began. Individuals who take the program are from a wide range of backgrounds — not only various business areas but also healthcare, policing, farming, government, and so on. Anecdotally (because we do not formally track post-graduation career accomplishments for short programs such as this), the jobs people have been getting after completing this program have also been very diverse.

The Spark: Why do you feel it’s so important to offer these courses?

DJ: There are actually different reasons behind our offerings. First, our primary goal in offering the Cannabis Industry Specialization program is to help individuals quickly “fill the gaps” in their knowledge about the sector so they are prepared for employment opportunities within it. Although the industry has experienced tremendous change in recent years as it has continued to mature, there continues to be good employment opportunities available for well-qualified candidates, and we want to help people get jobs. Second, we made the decision to create the GNED course because we felt it is very important to help students be able to get accurate information so they can develop well-informed perspectives about cannabis. Finally, with regard to the new course for health professionals, this was developed in response to market demand, to assist healthcare providers in gaining accurate and balanced insights into medical cannabis use.

To sum it all up, I would say that we chose to develop various types of cannabis-related education because cannabis has gained a legal status for medical and recreational use. This means there are good job opportunities available for those with appropriate education (particularly in Durham Region, which has worked exceptionally hard to support local companies and attract new ones to the area), but it also means that people need to really understand the product and the implications of its use.

“A KEY FOCUS of the Applied Research Centre is to SUPPORT ENTREPRENEURSHIP and collaborate with innovators in the CANNABIS INDUSTRY.”


Dr. Kari Kramp, principal investigator, and scientific manager, Applied Research Centre for Natural Products and Medical Cannabis

The Spark: Tell us about the cannabis-related courses at Loyalist.

Marijuana Leaf

KK: Loyalist College has two cannabis-related programs. The first is Cannabis Applied Science — it’s an industry-driven Ontario College graduate certificate program that enables students who have a biosciences background to explore the science of cannabis through science, technology, engineering, and mathematics lens while navigating Health Canada regulations and applied topics in cannabis biology, chemistry, and cultivation. Unique to this program is its connection to the College’s Applied Research Centre for Natural Products and Medical Cannabis, a nationally recognized industry centre in research for natural product development and advanced testing. The Centre’s entrepreneurship focus provides a unique lens through which students gain exposure to both business and research innovation. Through the Applied Research Centre, students connect
with industry to work on research-intensive projects that focus on cannabis product development with small and medium-sized enterprises.

Partnerships and collaborations with industry and academia are central to advancing and applying the body of knowledge in this burgeoning sector. For example, in 2019 we announced a partnership with Northeastern University, designed to benefit Bioscience and Cannabis Applied Science students, and advance applied cannabis research at both institutions. In 2019, we also launched a four-year strategic alliance with MediPharm Labs. They have committed to donating $100,000 in value of cannabis concentrates, full-spectrum extract, specially formulated distillates and/or isolates over the four-year alliance. This gives the college the opportunity to expand its applied research capacity and involve an increasing number of our students and researchers in industry-relevant projects.

The second program, a Cannabis Career Launch micro-credential, launched in January. Designed to increase employment prospects and mobility, this short, intensive micro-credential is ideal for job seekers and incumbent workers in the cannabis sector who are ready for entry-level industry training. Focused on hands-on cannabis production, safety, and workplace communication, the College’s SkillsAdvance Ontario (SAO) pilot project is free, includes a paid two-week industry placement, and is funded in part by the Ministry of Labour, Training and Skills Development.

The Spark: Why did Loyalist College decide to start offering cannabis-related courses?

KK: A core part of who we are at Loyalist College is focused around creating shared value for our students, industry and community partners. We are part of the bedrock of our community and, as such, we work closely with our local business and government partners to develop programs that meet industry demands, support entrepreneurship, and respond to regional employment needs. When the College’s Applied Research Centre for Natural Products and Medical Cannabis received its license from Health Canada in 2017, it enabled us to launch the College’s Cannabis Applied Science post-graduate certificate program — the first of its kind in Canada. The program allows students to build on their existing diploma, degree, or equivalent in the sciences, biology, or a related discipline with in-depth skills to support cannabis product development, inform process optimization and address natural product quality. Students will navigate cannabis regulations, investigate tissue culture, formulation, and advanced product development while developing a range of lab techniques for the extraction and analysis of cannabis, which can provide graduates and their employers with a competitive advantage.

We have seen a rapid expansion of the natural products and cannabis industry in the Bay of Quinte region, and both our Cannabis Applied Science program and Cannabis Career Launch micro-credential meet the urgent employment demands of this growing sector. The work of the Applied Research Centre is entrepreneurial, providing the training required for a skilled workforce, as well as collaborating with small and medium-sized enterprises to help propel their products to shelves. As the industry continues to innovate, our programming and research opportunities will support students and industry leaders in better understanding the plant, the process in which the plant is grown, the ways in which it can be analyzed, and how to generate innovative, high-quality, consistent products for the market. The possibilities for unique product development and further advancements in cannabis processing methodologies and technology are very exciting. With our advanced equipment and analytics, these programs and our industry-leading labs support the education and training of students and industry personnel, while enhancing innovation, productivity, and global competitiveness of our industry partners.

The Spark: What’s the interest level been like from students in these courses? What careers are they most interested in when it comes to the cannabis industry?

KK: We have seen tremendous interest in the program, both from students as well as industry professionals who are collaborating with the Applied Research Centre. A few of the careers in which they are most interested include cannabis quality assurance manager, lead processing technician, and formulation chemist.

We are proud to be the institution of choice for many small and medium-sized enterprises that are seeking expert testing and innovative product development in an increasingly competitive market. Our students know that the hands-on, experiential learning offered at the college, including access to state-of-the-art facilities and training in the latest technology, gives our students an edge in the workforce.

In particular, we’ve seen that many of our students and industry partners are drawn to our faculty’s expertise in green technologies and the work we are doing to test and develop sustainable materials for cannabis products with industry partners such as Kingston Aluminum Technology Inc (KAT). The Applied Research Centre’s expertise in green technology and cannabis has been leveraged by KAT’s expertise in green technology and cannabis to determine and test alternative sustainable liner options to match the quality of KAT’s recyclable aluminum bottles. Our solution-driven team of researchers are dedicated to helping small and medium-sized enterprises like KAT create safe, sustainable packaging without compromising product quality.

In their work with Exhale into Health, the Applied Research Centre helped successfully develop the formulation for an organic, gluten-free, and vegan cannabis edible, in which the level of cannabis is consistent throughout the product and is a controlled amount. This formulation placed the Applied Research Centre at the forefront of product development in a growing market. We are able to give our students first-hand exposure to the entrepreneurial process of product development, from the research lab to patenting and eventually to scaled-up production.

The Spark: Why do you feel it’s so important to offer these courses to students?

KK: A key focus of the Applied Research Centre is to support entrepreneurship and collaborate with innovators in the cannabis industry. Prior to launching the College’s Cannabis Applied Science program, we sought feedback from leading companies in the industry and established an advisory committee of trailblazers in the cannabis and natural-products sector. They emphasized a need for a skilled workforce, and the rising demand for high-quality, safe, and consistent products. Our new Cannabis Career Launch micro-credential meets the urgent needs of the industry while providing job seekers with an accelerated path to a career in cannabis.

Cannabis is a dynamic industry that will continue to experience rapid growth for years to come. As the industry itself develops, our innovative programming and partnerships with industry leaders will provide an avenue to tackle some unanswered questions around cannabis and provide concrete evidence, which will influence future regulatory and legislative considerations for policymakers, governments, and regulators to make more informed decisions

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