Ni­a­gara Col­lege har­vests its first pot crop

And once plants are tested they will all be de­stroyed

The Niagara Falls Review - - Front Page - AL­LAN BENNER

Ni­a­gara col­lege’s cannabis pro­gram stu­dents har­vested their first crop of mar­i­juana plants Fri­day, al­though no one will be smok­ing the fruits of their labour.

In­stead, the plants will ul­ti­mately be de­stroyed, af­ter they’re sent off to a lab­o­ra­tory to be tested as part of sev­eral re­search stud­ies the stu­dents are in­volved in that could hold a great deal of po­ten­tial for Canada’s fledg­ling in­dus­try, said the col­lege’s en­vi­ron­men­tal and hor­ti­cul­tural stud­ies pro­fes­sor Derek Schulze.

For in­stance, Schulze said

re­search focused on con­trol­ling the plant’s odour “is a big is­sue” in an in­dus­try that has faced com­plaints from neigh­bours of the green­houses that pro­duce the plants.

He said the stu­dents are work­ing with an en­vi­ron­men­tal com­pany, hop­ing to find a way to dif­fuse the chem­i­cals that cre­ate the skunky aroma as­so­ci­ated with cannabis, with­out af­fect­ing the po­tency of the drug it pro­duces.

“What we’re find­ing is that the mol­e­cules that are re­spon­si­ble for aroma are not psy­cho-ac­tive. Those are the ter­penes. … They’re just aroma,” he said.

“I think there’s some re­ally in­ter­est­ing stuff that will come out of that pro­ject, be­cause odour is a big deal.”

The stu­dents have also been re­search­ing the ef­fec­tive­ness of fer­til­izer, as well as the im­pact al­ter­ing light­ing may have had on the plants.

“We do a lot of re­search here,” he said.

But de­spite the po­ten­tial of the re­search the stu­dents are con­duct­ing, the pro­gram is cur­rently run­ning in con­verted ship­ping con­tain­ers at the col­lege’s Ni­a­gara-on-the-Lake cam­pus.

“We’re ap­ply­ing for and likely build­ing a re­search fa­cil­ity right be­side this, and it’ll be bet­ter suited to ac­tual ex­per­i­men­ta­tion,” Schulze said. “The goal of this fa­cil­ity was for ed­u­ca­tion pri­mar­ily, but at the col­lege — at least in the green­house pro­gram — we’ve al­ways done ex­per­i­men­tal projects with the stu­dents.”

He said lab­o­ra­to­ries at the col­lege’s food and wine in­sti­tute are also be­ing re-pur­posed and cer­ti­fied to test the cannabis plants, to ex­per­i­ment and learn how to cre­ate safe ex­trac­tions and food ad­di­tive from the plant.

“The col­lege is re­ally in a great po­si­tion to re­ally make a big im­pact on the in­dus­try,” he said. “But the in­dus­try has to be pre­pared and in­ter­ested in that, and that’s a big wild­card as far as I’m con­cerned.”

De­spite show­ing a keen in­ter­est in the grad­u­ates the col­lege pro­gram is set to pro­duce, he said the in­dus­try — for the most part — has yet to show an in­ter­est in the re­search the col­lege is con­duct­ing.

But for stu­dent Car­son Otto, a grad­u­ate of Western Univer­sity’s chem­i­cal en­gi­neer­ing pro­gram who wrote his the­sis on THC ex­trac­tion, the op­por­tu­nity to con­tinue his re­search as one of the col­lege’s first 24 cannabis pro­gram stu­dents “is awe­some.”

“It’s al­most rev­o­lu­tion­ary for a school to be do­ing re­search on cannabis. Five years ago, we wouldn’t have even thought that we’d be grow­ing weed on cam­pus,” he said. “I think there’s so much to be re­searched about cannabis, it’s ex­cit­ing that we’re at the fore­front of it.”

And al­though the col­lege al­ready sells the wine, beer and other prod­ucts pro­duced by the stu­dents, Schulze said the col­lege can’t cur­rently sell the cannabis the stu­dents grow.

“Not yet,” he said.

Al­though the Ni­a­gara Col­lege pro­gram be­gan op­er­at­ing un­der a pro­vi­sional re­search li­cence, Schulze said the col­lege is work­ing to­wards be­ing per­mit­ted to sell the plants.

“Our ul­ti­mate goal, and it might take a few years of ap­pli­ca­tions and amend­ments, is to get to some­thing like a li­cenced dealer where we can grow and then can sell to some­one else.”

JULIE JOCSAK THE ST. CATHARINES STAN­DARD

Ni­a­gara Col­lege stu­dents Ma­son Wy­att, left, and Max Hicks, check out some of the cannabis plants dur­ing the first har­vest at Ni­a­gara Col­lege Fri­day.

JULIE JOCSAK THE ST. CATHARINES STAN­DARD

Ni­a­gara Col­lege stu­dents Ma­son Wy­att, left, and Max Hicks, check out some of the cannabis dur­ing the first har­vest at Ni­a­gara Col­lege which took place Fri­day.

JULIE JOCSAK THE ST. CATHARINES STAN­DARD

Ni­a­gara Col­lege stu­dent Shafqat James ex­am­ines a cannabis plant dur­ing the first har­vest at Ni­a­gara Col­lege for the fledg­ing pro­gram on Fri­day.

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