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Class in session at Niagara College for commercial cannabis production program

24 Niagara College students make up Canada's first Commercial Cannabis Production program. .
24 Niagara College students make up Canada's first Commercial Cannabis Production program. . Ken Mann/CHML

The first day of instruction is complete for students within Canada’s first post-secondary commercial cannabis production certification program.

The 24 “pioneers” are studying at Niagara College’s campus in Niagara-on-the-Lake.

READ MORE: Commercial cannabis program getting ready to launch at Niagara College

College president Dan Patterson notes that the marijuana teaching lab is alongside their successful teaching brewery, winery and horticulture programs.

Patterson adds that the program represents the latest step for Niagara College in providing “a highly skilled workforce to drive the growth of existing and emerging industries.”

READ MORE: Niagara College takes delivery of cannabis lab

St. Catharines Liberal MP Chris Bittle also spoke during a welcoming ceremony on Wednesday afternoon.

He stresses that through the legalization of recreational marijuana, we will see “good paying jobs, we will see companies investing in our community, investing in Niagara, rather than proceeds going to organized crime and fueling criminal enterprise.”

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Bittle adds that with “five licensed cannabis facilities currently in the Niagara Region, nearly two million square feet of licensed production area and several companies already planning expansion, the need for qualified professionals who are able to work and succeed in this field is exceptional.”

The students will be trained in areas, such as plant nutrition, lighting, climate and pest control.

Ruth Chun, representing Up Cannabis, which is building a 400,000-square-foot facility in Beamsville, says they’ll proceed to careers in cultivation, harvesting and packaging, horticulture, laboratory support, research and development, finance and administration.

READ MORE: With 10 weeks to go till legalization, Ontario doesn’t appear to have ordered any pot

The 24 students who make up the first cohort were selected from a pool of more than 300 applicants.

They include John Skilnyk, who relocated to Niagara from Dawson City, Yukon, before enrolling at Niagara College, and who boasts more than 20 years of experience in education and administration.

He points out that the last time he was a student, “Brian Mulroney was prime minister and NAFTA was being negotiated, for the first time.”