Mohawk College growing pot? Probably not

You’ve heard about going to college to learn how to fix cars or build homes … but what about growing pot?

That’s exactly what students will learn in Niagara College’s Commercial Cannabis Production program, a one-year post-graduate certificate coming to Niagara College in 2018. The program will be the first of its kind in Canada.

Al Unwin, associate dean of Environmental and Horticultural Studies at Niagara College, described the program as much more than just growing marijuana.

“The program would prepare graduates to work in the licensed production of cannabis, which is used as a therapeutic drug, fibre and as a source for seed oil,” Unwin said.

“Among our key strengths is the ability to anticipate and respond to emerging industries, trends and labour-market needs,” Unwin added.

The move may seem bold to some, but to Paul Armstrong, vice president of Mohawk College, it makes sense that Niagara College is the first to venture into growing the plant in an academic setting.

“It’s a good fit for them based on areas of expertise they already have,” Armstrong said. “They’re quite well-recognized in the area of wine production, including growing their own grapes and owning their own vineyards, so it aligns fairly well to what they’re doing [already].”

Unwin emphasised Niagara’s strength in dealing with controlled substances as a key factor in the decision to offer the program.

“The program also builds on Niagara College’s extensive experience and success in developing programs that include the production of highly-regulated products, including wine, beer and artisanal distilling,” Unwin said.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has stated he plans to legalize marijuana by July 2018 – which is now less than nine months away.

Rebecca Isowa is the continuing education program manager at Mohawk College. Isowa agreed Niagara’s ground-breaking certificate seems like a natural fit for the college.

“Considering current and upcoming legislation, it certainly seems relevant,” Isowa said. “It fits in exactly with Niagara’s wheelhouse.”

Relevant or not, it doesn’t look like Mohawk College students will be growing marijuana anytime soon. According to Armstrong, it would take certain circumstances for the college to consider offering a marijuana-related program.

“Well, I would never say never,” Armstrong said, “however, from Mohawk’s perspective it’s not really aligned with our strength areas, being health, media, and entertainment.”

Armstrong added while the college isn’t currently considering programs related to growing marijuana, it would be foolish not to consider other avenues in the marijuana industry.

“We offer a wide range of programs in business, and this is a business,” Armstrong said.  “So, there may be extensions of other programs we currently offer that would support people’s ability to manage the business, regulatory, or quality side of [the industry].”

Only time will tell if Niagara is ahead of the curve, but one thing is certain – you won’t see pot growing at Mohawk College anytime soon.





About the author  ⁄ Andres Billiald

Andres Billiald is an aspiring journalist with a passion for writing. Andres has a love for film, writing and his better half. While an intern at the CBC's Hamilton Bureau, he covered everything from a bomb scare to a dispensary raid and even interviewed Rick Mercer. With more than 20 published stories for the CBC, Andres hopes to continue to grow as a journalist, gaining experience whenever the opportunity presents itself.

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