For ‘Weed’ Aficionados, “The Times They Are a-Changin’” – St. Catharines Tourism

For ‘Weed’ Aficionados, “The Times They Are a-Changin'”

Blog | September 25, 2017

by Mike Keenan

Bob Dylan’s title track (above) issued way back in 1964, but attitudes concerning contentious political issues have certainly changed dramatically over the recent years. For example, only a few U.S. presidents ago, a youthful Bill Clinton (1993 to 2001) when cornered by a newsman, feigned faultless cannabis experimentation by suggesting that he smoked marijuana but that he certainly “didn’t inhale it.”

Fast forward to P.M. Justin Trudeau’s first gender-balanced cabinet “because it’s 2015.” And now, Niagara College, a mere two years later, reports that it will offer Canada’s first postsecondary degree in Commercial Cannabis Production starting September, 2018 ‒ our country’s first postsecondary credential in the production of commercial cannabis!

The program, approved by the Ministry of Advanced Education and Skills Development, prepares graduates to work in the licensed production of cannabis used as a therapeutic drug (marijuana), fiber (hemp) and as a source for seed oil  (hempseed).

This initiative directly reflects the Justin Trudeau government’s aggressive stance on pot – “We will legalize, regulate, and restrict access to marijuana.” Trudeau indicated that marijuana consumption and “incidental” possession will be removed from the Criminal Code.”

Niagara College president Dan Patterson stated, “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. The program reflects the College’s mandate to develop responsive applied learning programs that address industry needs – much like our Commercial Beekeeping, Culinary Innovation, Renewable Energy Technician and other programs.”

My goodness. Beekeeping, beer making and now weed at Niagara College! Alas, I was born much too soon.

Al Unwin, associate dean of Niagara College’s School of Environmental and Horticultural Studies, suggested, “Driven by legislative changes in Canada and abroad, there is a growing labour market need, and education will be a key component of the success of this emerging industry. This program will produce graduates who are skilled and knowledgeable Greenhouse and Controlled Environment Technicians who are also trained in all of the procedures, requirements, regulations and standards for this industry.”

Cannabis production is a highly regulated process, with strict government protocols. Niagara College’s program will conform to all guidelines and requirements, including providing a separate and highly secure learning environment/growing facility.

Unwin indicated that the innovative program is a one-year post-grad package open to students with a diploma or degree from an accredited college or university in agribusiness, agricultural sciences, environmental science/resource studies, horticulture or natural sciences, or an acceptable combination of education and experience. It will be located at the Niagara-on-the-Lake Campus, home to the College’s other agri-business programs, facilities and research projects.

According to Chris Bittle, St. Catharine’s M.P., “Niagara College has always been at the forefront in terms of ensuring students are given the tools necessary to set them up for success in emerging economic markets. The Commercial Cannabis degree program is a primary example of why Niagara College has become a leader in postsecondary education.” Bittle is the freshly appointed deputy leader of Trudeau’s government in the House of Commons, a huge promotion for this talented and respected young Niagara Member of Parliament still in his first term of office.

Niagara College currently is celebrating its 50th year as a College of Applied Arts and Technology, and is considered both a leader in applied education and a key contributor to the economies of Niagara and Ontario. A regional college with global reach, NC offers more than 100 diploma, bachelor degree and advanced level programs. For program and application information visit their website at –

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