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These days, there are more colleges and universities than ever offering specialty cannabis courses. The diversity of programs – focussing on everything from cannabis cultivation to marketing  – is impressive. Spanning nearly every aspect of this robust industry, there are now dozens of courses and colleges looking to accelerate students’ entry into the cannabis space.

Traditionally, much of the interest in cannabis research resided with eccentric scientists in places like Holland, Israel and California, with most of that work centred on cannabis as a therapeutic agent. In fact, because of its status as an illicit drug, few academics showed interest in cannabis as a serious area of research until very recently.

As drug laws around the world have been reformed to permit medical cannabis and, in some places, recreational adult use, so too have more academic researchers and post-secondary institutions turned their attention to the plant and its chemical parts. For students and young professionals, this turn has resulted in the building of a proverbial bridge between a good education and a pipe dream.
Where great strides have been made by researchers looking at cannabis through a medicinal lens, so too are the practical, commercial and industrial sides of the industry now being investigated on campus. Once relegated to the very fringes of academic discourse, cannabis is now serving the role of lead character in a flurry of innovative courses and programs. 

Likely to serve as a case study in the prospect of cannabis education in a formal academic setting, Canada has started to become a hotbed for practical training in the field. One of the most exciting players in the new space, Niagara College is now offering students a commercial cannabis production course, which readies people to grow medical and adult-use cannabis.

A one-year post-graduate certificate program, the Niagara College course is the first of its kind to train students, specifically, on best practices of cannabis cultivation. Small in size, with only 25 places available in the course last year, demand for the program was impressive – with over 300 people applying.

“The program reflects the college’s mandate to develop responsive applied learning programs that address industry needs,” Niagara College president Dan Patterson told reporters. “We’re a pre-emptive college, and one of our key strengths is our ability to anticipate and respond to emerging industries, trends and labour-market needs.” 

In addition, Niagara College has become one of the leading research hubs for the cannabis plant, the world over. The school has recently teamed with a number of licensed cannabis producers and will be undertaking significant research on the plant in its licensed state-of-the-art research lab. 

As one of the many respectable schools now embracing cannabis, as both an industry and area of research, Niagara is the first to give students a place to formally learn how to grow cannabis. Whether the trend to educate people on the at-times contentious topic continues is anyone’s guess. But if forecasts and projections for the industry are telling of anything, it’s likely that more schools are soon to follow in Niagara College’s footsteps.

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