KPU’s Cannabis Professional Series to Improve and Adapt as Legalization Draws Nearer

David Purcell, the university’s Director of Emerging Business, is optimistic about the future of the program

Port Coquitlam M.L.A. Mike Farnworth. (Wikimedia Commons)

The government of British Columbia recently announced that it will be consulting the public about how marijuana legalization, including regulations and sales, should be undertaken across the province. Director of Emerging Business at Kwantlen Polytechnic University David Purcell is optimistic that both the process of legalization and the consultations with the public will benefit KPU’s Cannabis Professional Series program in the near future.

According to Purcell, the goal of the CPS is to become “the leader in workforce training in cannabis in Canada, which is a goal we still hold true today.”

The series is an extension of the Continuing Professional Studies department. It is an online program that consists of four courses which range from plant production facility maintenance, marketing and sales, finances, and plant sciences.

Purcell says that the program is designed for students who are currently employed in the cannabis industry and want to upgrade their skills or for people who want to enter the industry. There is a diverse range of students enrolled in the CPS, from students straight out of high school to experienced workers in the horticulture and finance industries.

The program began about two years ago, with the identification of medical marijuana as a burgeoning industry. Future growth was anticipated, mandating the need to train experts in the field who could not only grow and cultivate the plant, but also market and sell it.

In anticipation of legalization, which is currently slated for spring 2018, the department is creating a new course which will specialize in the selling of cannabis in a retail environment, according to Purcell. He also wants to develop management, educational, and social issues workshops and courses.

Legalization would make more research dollars for studying marijuana available, which would benefit KPU as a polytechnic university. Federal and provincial dollars for applied research into the crop are currently unavailable, but KPU is aligning itself “with as many partners as [they] can” so that they can take advantage of the opportunity once it is available.
“There’s a massive … curriculum roadmap that we’re building,” he says. “We want to continue to deliver [a] world class curriculum.”

Purcell calls the cannabis industry “an emerging market.” Experts estimate that both medical and recreational marijuana will one day become a $23 billion industry, and Purcell estimates that 50,000 to 150,000 new jobs will be created in the field over the next two years.

“There is a deep need for knowledgeable, legitimate workforce training, and that’s what we’re providing today,” says Purcell.

B.C. Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General Mike Farnworth, who made the announcement that the government would be seeking public consultations prior to legalization, was unavailable for an interview. However, his office stated that “Ottawa has given provinces and territories the ability to tailor rules for their jurisdictions, and to regulate licensing, distribution and retail sales … This provincial scope of control is mirrored in our government’s priorities: protecting our young people, making the health and safety of British Columbians a priority, keeping cannabis out of the hands of criminals, and keeping our roads safe through education and enforcement.”

The statement continues, “We have no intention to achieve these goals unilaterally, nor illusions that we could. We are now consulting broadly—with all levels of government, with industry, with the health sector, law enforcement and all British Columbians—because everyone has a stake.”

Purcell says that the current government is more open to these types of social issues than the Liberals were because the people are calling for it, and that “the prevailing thought on marijuana itself is changing, and its softening a little bit.”

Like the government, he believes that public consultations are important. He encourages the public to discard their stereotypes about people involved in the industry or marijuana users, who, in his experience, are hard-working, educated, and well-trained individuals.

In his opinion, the CPS program is critical for moving forward with marijuana so that the public “can make conscious and informed decisions about the plant itself, about the industry, [and] about what legalization is going to look like in Canada.”