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Collaborating on cannabis

Memorial hosts conference focused on emerging industry

By Susan White

Planned grow-ops. Medical uses of cannabis. Bill-C45 and the regulatory rollout of legal marijuana in Newfoundland and Labrador.

These and other topics were explored by guest speakers at The Year of Legalization: Challenges and Opportunities in the Cannabis Industry, Memorial University’s first forum on the emerging industry on April 24.

Sean Ryan from Newfoundland Labrador Liquor Corporation gives a presentation at Memorial's first conference focused on the cannabis industry.
Sean Ryan from Newfoundland Labrador Liquor Corporation at Memorial’s conference focused on the cannabis industry.
Photo: Submitted

The half-day conference was hosted by the Faculty of Business Administration, Office of Public Engagement and Memorial University Botanical Garden.

Exploring potential opportunities

“With the production, sale and use of recreational marijuana becoming legalized, it opens an entirely new industry that researchers, industry participants and government decision-makers need to be aware of and involved in,” said Marc Kielley, special advisor on partnerships and commercialization at Memorial.

“We wanted to provide an opportunity for all of these stakeholders to come together to explore some of the issues that are arising as the industry develops as well as to explore potential opportunities for researchers at Memorial to engage with the industry.”

Speakers for the conference included Lindsay Robles, Health Canada Cannabis Legalization and Regulation Branch; Sean Ryan, Newfoundland Labrador Liquor Corporation; Dr. Paul Seaborn, University of Denver; Dana Clendenning, Canopy Growth Corporation; Chris Snellen, CEPG Consulting and Design Inc.; and Dr. Alia Norman, Canabo Medical Clinic.

The Government of Canada introduced legislation in 2017 to legalize, regulate and restrict access to cannabis within Canada.

Expected to come into effect in the summer of 2018, this legislation creates parameters for possessing, growing, selling and distributing cannabis for recreational purposes.

First to move forward

“Newfoundland and Labrador will be one of the first in Canada to move forward with legalizing cannabis, so we’re well-positioned at Memorial to observe this emerging industry, collaborate with those inside it and help address challenges that arise, whether that’s through research or providing trained graduates to move the industry forward,” said Dr. Isabelle Dostaler, dean of the business faculty.

“We look forward to continuing our engagement with the cannabis industry and exploring ways we can collaborate in the future.”

Guest speakers covered a wide array of topics related to the industry. Mr. Robles discussed Health Canada’s public health approach to the legalization, which focuses on education and public awareness.

“[The Botanical Garden is] currently engaged with Health Canada to establish a research license to support faculty research and future teaching.” — Kim Shipp

Dr. Seaborn spoke about lessons learned from legalization of marijuana in Colorado and the importance of government, industry and academia working together on the issues and challenges. Dr. Seaborn introduced the first business of cannabis at the university level at the University of Denver.

Mr. Snellen discussed his experience with seed-to-sale crop production and the need for qualified personnel in areas such as cultivation, extraction, business management, quality control and assurance.

Dr. Norman shared her insights on the medical uses for cannabis and highlighted the role that university researchers can play in conducting clinical research, particularly as it relates to the effects of cannabis on fibromyalgia, anxiety and mental health, sleep, opioid replacement and cancer.

Mr. Clendenning also gave attendees an overview of Canopy Growth’s production plans in the province and forecasted market opportunities for recreational medical cannabis globally.

About 65 people attended the conference.

Emerging industry needs

Kim Shipp, director of the Botanical Garden, says the event is part of the unit’s longer term engagement with the cannabis industry.

The garden is leading a multidisciplinary cannabis working group that is open to faculty members at Memorial.

“The Botanical Garden has been facilitating relationship-building between industry, government and academia to address the emerging industry’s research and development needs, as well as faculty members’ research and teaching interests,” she said.

“We plan to continue working to further these interests and are currently engaged with Health Canada to establish a research license to support faculty research and future teaching.”

Another upcoming event at Memorial will focus on potential impacts of the forthcoming legalization of cannabis. Registration is coming soon for the Gardiner Centre’s Impacts of Marijuana in the Workplace workshop on June 4.

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