October 15, 2018 / 1:41 PM / 2 months ago

Cannabis college: Canadian students learn to grow pot

TORONTO (Reuters) - As Canadians prepare for the legalization of recreational cannabis this week, 24 students are becoming the first in the country to get formal credentials in growing pot.

Students Michal Marcinkiewicz and Carson Otto measure the light in the marijuana lab at the new Commercial Cannabis Production Program at Niagara College in Niagara-On-The-Lake, Ontario, Canada, October 9, 2018. REUTERS/Carlos Osorio

Canada will become the first industrialized nation to legalize the recreational use of cannabis on Wednesday, fulfilling a campaign promise by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Liberals who had argued the move would keep pot out of the hands of underage users and reduce related crime.

In brightly lighted climate-controlled rooms at Ontario’s Niagara College, protected by fences and layers of locked doors, are 50 cannabis clones that students will learn to irrigate, feed, protect, track with bar codes, test for chemical content, harvest and cure, said program coordinator Bill MacDonald.

“They’re also learning the business side. If you’re growing this crop, how much is it going to cost you? How much labor (will) you need?”

They’ll learn cannabis has light needs similar to the chrysanthemum’s and feeding similar to a tomato or a pepper.

“It’s an extremely unique plant, and people have a real emotional attachment to it.”

As authorities worry Canada’s legal cannabis supply may fall short of demand and fail to choke off the black market, the program is attracting interest, MacDonald said.

“Licensed producers are already lining up for our graduates.”

Canada’s burgeoning marijuana industry has caught the attention of major retailers like Walmart Inc’s (WMT.N) Canadian unit and other global companies, mainly in the alcohol and beverage industries, who are considering entering the market for cannabis-infused products.

One thing students at Niagara College will not be able to do is make use of their product: All the plants have to be destroyed at the end of the course.

Reporting by Anna Mehler Paperny; Editing by Cynthia Osterman

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