Higher education plays a key role in the modern and technologically sophisticated cannabis industry. From agriculture to retail, from labs to courtrooms, legal weed spans multiple sectors of the economy and society. Preparing the next generation for these new civic, commercial, and environmental horizons is more important than ever. And notably, universities across the United States and Canada have begun to recognize the value in educating students to work in these fields. Cannabis classes are cropping up on campuses across the country. More degree programs at the graduate level are incorporating cannabis into their curriculum. More schools are offering scholarships for students interested in pursuing a career in cannabis. And now Canada is following suit, offering students in one cannabis cultivation class full tuition to study pot.
The medical cannabis industry deserves the credit for legitimizing the academic pursuit of weed studies. And as the industry continues to grow and create jobs, colleges and universities will be responsible for creating the highly skilled individuals to work them.
In Canada, however, legalization has proceeded along a somewhat different timeline compared to to the united states. Overall, legal weed is much “younger” there. 2001 saw the end of the country’s 1923 ban on marijuana, with the legalization of regulated medical cannabis.
Among other things, these plans make provincial government funds available to support educational initiatives in the medical cannabis industry. And the cannabis cultivation class now on offer at New Brunswick Community College in Dieppe is one such initiative receiving financial support from the government.
Dieppe Community College seems rather far removed from Canada’s urban centers. But the New Brunswick school happens to reside near one of the province’s two licensed medical marijuana growers, Organigram.
Working alongside the government, Organigram and Dieppe were also able to secure $70,000 to cover tuition for the first 25 students to take the course. That means students can study the art and science of growing medical cannabis for free, courtesy of the government.
Dieppe Community College’s cannabis cultivation class is the first of its kind offered in Canada. The first cohort of students began the course on November 27.
“It’s a science-based program,” said Michel Doucet, executive director of continuing education at Dieppe. “Horticulture-based—so vegetation, plant care, control, environment, the watering, the elements that are required for successful growth,’ Doucet told the CBC.
While contributing to the economic growth of New Brunswick, Organigram CEO Greg Engel also hopes the program can train new employees for his company.
Organigram wants to double its staff in the next few months. They’re expecting demand to increase sharply when recreational sales go into effect in July. Engel plans to hire the medical cannabis cultivation technicians who graduate from the Dieppe program.
It’s exactly this prospect for secure, steady employment that’s attracting so many students to the cultivation training program at Dieppe. And the government is all for it. “The responsibility of the provincial government is to make sure we have a qualified labor force,” said post-secondary education minister Roger Malenson.
Unfortunately, Dieppe’s cannabis cultivation class doesn’t appear designed to help those convicted of growing cannabis enter the legal weed workforce. In terms of qualifications, the college specifies that it’s looking for candidates with no criminal records.