Red River College’s new course offers in-depth look at all things legalization
About 200 people registered for a Friday cannabis legalization conference hosted by Red River College, spending the day learning about the basics of marijuana, from plant anatomy to cultivation to retail sales.
The meeting at the downtown campus was just an appetizer, however, before the Winnipeg school’s newest course, a “Cannabis101” class, kicks off onNov. 6.
The new course, offered through the college’s School of Indigenous Education, came in response to “a call to action from our First Nations communities, particularly the ones that are growing into the cannabis industry,” said Rebecca Chartrand, executive director of Indigenous strategy at RRC.
“The question was posed: what are we doing to assist in growth into this new industry?”
The industry should open new job opportunities for Indigenous people in Manitoba, Chartrand said, citing a number of First Nations in the province that have already jumped into the cannabis business with both feet.
Brokenhead Ojibway Nation, Long Plain First Nation, Nisichawayasihk Cree Nation, Opaskwayak Cree Nation (OCN) and Peguis First Nation have all signed retail deals with licensed provincial cannabis seller National Access Cannabis Corp. Peguis has also partnered with cannabis producer GrowForce Inc. Fisher River Cree Nation has joined up with Garden Variety, another provincially licensed cannabis retailer.
Red River College’s new course is “a great opportunity,” said OCN Onekanew (Chief) Christian Sinclair, who spoke at Friday’s conference.
“It just goes to show the legitimacy of this new industry, and the fact that it’s going to take people that are certified and educated to ensure that they provide quality service and quality products to the community at large, for those that purchase the product,” he said.
Not all First Nations are keen on legal cannabis, acknowledged Chartrand. In her home community of Pine Creek First Nation, she said, elders expressed mixed feelings on the subject.
“Some didn’t want it at all in our communities, some wanted it because there’s the medicinal value in it,” she said. “But overall, my sense of things was that there just wasn’t enough education on it to make an informed opinion.”
Shelley Turner will be trying to close the education gap, as she leads the twice-weekly, six-week course. The physician, whose practice focuses on medical cannabis, said her students will learn the basics of “plant anatomy, biology, how it works in the body.”
“We’re looking at the medicinal qualities of cannabis. We’re going to go through patient cases. We’re going to look at the retail model as well, and the regulations associated with both of those structures, and then looking at (cultivation) as well,” she said.
Students in the course “are looking at it like a stepping stone into the industry… We’re having a lot of people look at, how can I get into the industry, how can I be a part of it?”
Cannabis 101 is open to everyone, and so far, the demand is hot.
Chartrand said registrations have already surpassed RRC’s usual class size of 24, and the college is planning to add another 21 spots.
“And if we max out at that point, then we’ll open up to 75, and we’ll just find the right space for it,” Chartrand said.
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