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Pot legalization cultivates new crop of interest

With the legalization of marijuana given the green light for July 2018, horticulture students at the college are scaling up their plans for a future in the growing industry.

Students like Thomas Parisien are looking forward to the blossoming opportunities that growing marijuana will bring.

“To be more than just someone who has a passion for cannabis you need to show you have an involved background in horticulture to be taken seriously,” said Parisien, horticultural industries program student. “My goal is to work as a master grower, overseeing the larger scale production of cannabis for medical and recreational use.”

His plan will begin with looking for a job as a ‘trimmer’ or hired help in a greenhouse to make connections in the industry.

Tommy Wingreen, program coordinator of the horticultural industries program, agrees there will be opportunities in the cannabis-growing business, but can’t say what the demand will be like in the short-term.

“I’m wondering how quickly the legal companies will take to get organized in order to push out the illegal black market sales,” said Wingreen.

Wingreen has been asked by students about growing marijuana for years, not just in relation to legalization. But at the end of the day, marijuana is “just another crop” said Wingreen. It will take years for legal production to catch up to the illegal production,

“Too many licences being given out (by Health Canada) could create competition which would not be good for the cultivation process.”

Niagara College takes a more direct route, with its commercial cannabis production program, training students in the biology and practices of cannabis production including plant nutrition, environment, lighting, climate control, pest control and cultivar selection.

Despite the increasing openness of cannabis, some students in the Algonquin program didn’t want their names used during an interview about their education and future in the industry.

“I got into horticulture thanks to working on organic urban farms. I quickly found out I had a greenthumb, so after a few years of managing the farm I decided to hone my skills with the horticultural industries program,” one student said. “After graduating I’ll probably go to Niagara for the cannabis program there, unless one is offered closer before I graduate.”

Another student said he joined the horticulture program to learn to grow all sorts of different plants, not just marijuana.

“I foresee a great need for Canadian-grown products as legalization comes full bloom.” When the program is over the plans for growing and starting a farm will be next on the list.

“I want to use the profits of the marijuana business to support a non-profit ‘pay-what-you-can’ market so everyone can afford to eat quality local food”.


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