Cannabis is a complex business. Not surprisingly, there’s a burgeoning training industry to help people interested in participating in the sector, with courses offered by private businesses – and even by some universities.
“I brought the cannabis program to Mount Royal University,” says Brad Mahon, Dean of Continuing Education at Mount Royal University (MRU) in Calgary. “Alberta has been struggling economically for some time now, and there’s a large workforce in the province looking for opportunities in new sectors.”
MRU began its program three years in partnership with a Kwantlen Polytechnic University in British Columbia. Last year, the MRU went solo with its Cannabis Education Program – a set of online courses that examines various aspects of cannabis production in Canada. The curriculum has a strong focus on understanding and complying with the Cannabis Act.
“Our advisory committee has made all the difference,” says Mahon. “We’re learning from people who are out there working in the industry, including former students.”
The courses offered at MRU are intended for those interested in working with licensed production facilities, as well as for suppliers to the cannabis industry, license applicants, and even investors.
“We have quite a diverse group of students,” says Mahon. “Some are studying because they really want to participate in the industry, but others are hobbyists, or just want to grow a better plant.”
Help for the retail sector
One area of growth in cannabis education is within the retail sector. At present, regulations tend to focus on public safety, with little emphasis on product knowledge – much as with provincial programs, such as Ontario’s Smart Serve, which certifies individuals to sell alcohol.
“Most education programs are focussed on what you can and cannot do, there really isn’t much training out there to equip staff with product knowledge,” says Zane Yassein, Co-Founder, Cannabis Training Canada (CTC) in Vancouver. “However, with our training, we go deeper to include product knowledge. We can customize our modules to address the needs of stores or provinces, including with their own branding. Our customers can then have access to the back end of the portal, to track their employees’ progress.”
When CTC began, the idea was to focus more on serving the provinces and territories. While CTC still serves this market, the real growth is in the direct retail sector. To ensure the broadest and most flexible reach, CTC, which has been in operation since 2015, has made a strong commitment to its online platform.
“We have a software guy on our team, and we built our platform from scratch,” says Yassein. “Our training is easy to update. In effect, we are more of a tech company than a cannabis company – we don’t touch any product.”
The CTC suite of courses for retail certification includes the history of cannabis, cannabis plant anatomy, cannabis and the human body, product knowledge, legal considerations, customer interaction, and social responsibility.
“The future of training will be dependent on how the industry in Canada matures,” says Yassein. “There are so many new products, things haven’t plateaued. It’s why we’re offering an in-depth product knowledge course, because the products are changing so fast.”
The cannabis sommelier
“We are all about product appreciation,” says Adolfo Gonzalez of CannaReps Consulting in Vancouver, which offers three courses: cannabis sommelier, living soil at home, and dispensary management. “We don’t pitch novel theories. We only teach bona fide cannabis culture and science.”