Kwantlen Polytechnic University will launch accredited courses in cannabis cultivation and consultation

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      As the federal government plans on legalizing recreational cannabis next year, one B.C. regional university is ramping up its workforce training in this area.

      In late 2015, Kwantlen Polytechnic University (KPU) launched its Cannabis Professional Series to provide education for people working in this sector.

      Offered through continuing and professional studies, there are three courses: plant production and facility management; marketing, sales, and drug development; and financing a cannabis enterprise in Canada.

      These courses are delivered online over 12-week periods. This makes them accessible for people who want to upgrade their skills and understanding while remaining employed.

      “Our instructors are all currently employed within the cannabis industry in Canada,” KPU’s director of emerging business, David Purcell, told the Straight by phone. “Discussion topics are posted at the front of the week and the learners go log in to the portal. With the discussion topic, there are recommended readings as well as recommended research portals.”

      Students respond to questions on the portal, which can be seen by the instructor and other learners.

      "The instructor will then provide feedback for each of the responses that are put up,” Purcell explained. “One of the advantages is because all of the learners can see the responses of their classmates, it forces them to go fairly deep in their research.”

      New courses will be accredited

      With the prospect of cannabis legalization, KPU is preparing to launch two new courses next year.

      The first is for would-be cannabis-cultivation technicians, and will teach students how to grow the plant to reach its full potential.

      "They really start with seed selection and cloning and go all the way through the cultivation, propagation, harvest, trimming, and transport of the plants themselves—all within the regulations,” Purcell said.

      It’s divided into two sections. The theoretical component will be delivered online, similar to the existing courses. The second part will be presented face to face at the Langley campus.

      "We will have space where students will actually be able to interact with the plants, get their hands in the dirt, and learn how it actually happens by doing it,” he stated.

      The second new offering next year is a retail-cannabis-consultant course. Purcell pointed out that people who interact with cannabis buyers will benefit from having a deep understanding of the difference between cannabis extracts such as THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) and CBD (cannabidiol), along with the impact of different potencies of sativa and indica strains.

      "We’re certainly not suggesting that anyone gives anyone medical advice,” he emphasized. “It’s really about ‘How do we best sell this product in the most responsible manner that we possibly can?’ ”

      The three existing continuing-studies and professional-training courses offer graduates certificates of completion, but they’re not accredited.

      Graduates of the cannabis-cultivation-technician and retail-cannabis-consultant courses, on the other hand, will receive accredited certificates. That could have career implications if there’s ever a cannabis regulatory framework requiring accredited people to work in certain occupations within the industry.

      "Our ultimate goal is to offer degree programming in cannabis,” Purcell said. “We’re working to get there. Obviously, that’s a very long process.”

      Meanwhile, the existing plant-production and facility management course focuses on the federal Access to Cannabis for Medical Purposes Regulations, providing learners with insights into the current regulatory regime. It also offers insights into the production of cannabis plants, covering such areas as root health, pest and fungal problems, and the types of nutrients that help the plants thrive.

      The facility-management component addresses environmental considerations such as lighting, humidity, and temperatures in greenhouses and outdoors.

      This course has traditionally accepted 40 students into each cohort, but increased demand led KPU to accept two more cohorts at the end of October—less than a month after an earlier class became fully subscribed.

      "It’s been very, very successful,” Purcell noted. “We have a number of graduates who have come out of it.”