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U of G Offering Online Cannabis Courses For Commercial & Home Growers

“Cannabis Production” Offered Beginning In September

Published 09/15/2019 | By Guelph Now Local News - U of G

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“Cannabis Production” Now Being Offered
“Cannabis Production” Now Being Offered

U of G Offering Online Cannabis Courses For Commercial / Home Growers

Cannabis growers from commercial professionals to home enthusiasts are the target of a new online course to be launched this fall at the University of Guelph.

“Cannabis Production” will be offered beginning this September as part of a new cannabis specialization in U of G’s existing horticulture certificate program. A second course in cannabis regulations and quality assurance will also begin in January with registration opening in September.

The Cannabis Production course is already full with 60 students enrolled for the fall.

Both courses will draw upon leading research expertise in aspects of cannabis production developed by U of G faculty members.

The new offerings will be among only a few cannabis production courses available so far at universities and colleges in Canada, said Marjory Gaouette, manager, program development with Open Learning and Educational Support.

Referring to federal legalization of cannabis in 2018, Gaouette said, “In the past year, we’ve had a significant increase in people calling, looking for courses.”

Both courses will be geared to commercial growers looking to enter the expanding cannabis industry or to upgrade their skills, as well as home growers.

The inaugural Cannabis Production course will be designed and taught by Brandon Yep, a master’s student in the School of Environmental Sciences (SES).

He will teach growing basics, including lighting and irrigation systems, growing media, pest and disease management, and post-harvest curing and packaging. The course will also discuss aspects of botany, cannabis history, the growing Canadian industry and medical uses of the plant.

Yep said he designed the course using extensive and longstanding University research in general horticulture, plant agriculture and indoor growing in greenhouses and controlled environments. In cannabis specifically, research teams led by SES professors Youbin Zheng and Mike Dixon have published several recent groundbreaking studies on aspects of plant production.

Those investigations make U of G a leader in applying research rigour and expertise to a largely unstudied field, said Yep.

Photo right: Brandon Yep

Referring to numerous untested growing practices developed by home growers before legalization, he said, “This course will clarify fact from myth and provide scientifically backed information on cannabis production.”

For his graduate degree supervised by Zheng, Yep studies ways to improve aquaponics, a novel method for growing plants indoors. The system collects waste from fish grown in aquaculture and provides that waste to bacteria. Those bugs break down the material and make its nutrients available to plants grown hydroponically.

Aquaponics is used by Green Relief, a company in Puslinch, Ont., that produces cannabis for medical uses. Yep has worked part-time with the firm for three years.

U of G Researchers First to Unlock Access to Pain Relief Potential of Cannabis

University of Guelph researchers are the first to uncover how the cannabis plant creates important pain-relieving molecules that are 30 times more powerful at reducing inflammation than Aspirin.

The discovery unlocks the potential to create a naturally derived pain treatment that would offer potent relief without the risk of addiction of other painkillers.

Photo right: Professor Tariq Akhtar

“There’s clearly a need to develop alternatives for relief of acute and chronic pain that go beyond opioids,” said Prof. Tariq Akhtar, Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology, who worked on the study with MCB professor Steven Rothstein.

“These molecules are non-psychoactive and they target the inflammation at the source, making them ideal painkillers.”

The research has received extensive media coverage, with stories appearing in The Toronto Star , the Miami Herald, CTV News, and elsewhere.

Using a combination of biochemistry and genomics, the researchers were able to determine how cannabis makes two important molecules called cannflavin A and cannflavin B.

Known as “flavonoids,” cannflavins A and B were first identified in 1985, when research verified they provide anti-inflammatory benefits that were nearly 30 times more effective gram-for-gram than acetylsalicylic acid (sold as Aspirin).

However, further investigation into the molecules stalled for decades in part because research on cannabis was highly regulated. With cannabis now legal in Canada and genomics research greatly advanced, Akhtar and Rothstein decided to analyze cannabis to understand how Cannabis sativa biosynthesizes cannflavins.

“Our objective was to better understand how these molecules are made,?which is a relatively straightforward exercise these days,” said Akhtar. “There are many sequenced genomes that are publicly available, including the genome of Cannabis sativa, which can be mined for information. If you know what you’re looking for, one can bring genes to life, so to speak, and piece together how molecules like cannflavins A and B are assembled.”

With the genomic information at hand, they applied classical biochemistry techniques to verify which cannabis genes were required to create cannflavins A and B. Their full findings were recently published in?the journal? Phytochemistry.

These findings provide the opportunity to create natural health products containing these important molecules.

“Being able to offer a new pain relief option is exciting, and we are proud that our work has the potential to become a new tool in the pain relief arsenal,” said Rothstein.

Currently, chronic pain sufferers often need to use opioids, which work by blocking the brain’s pain receptors but carry the risk of ?significant side effects and addiction. Cannflavins would target pain with a different approach, by reducing inflammation.

“The problem with these molecules is they are present in cannabis at such low levels, it’s not feasible to try to engineer the cannabis plant to create more of these substances,” said Rothstein. “We are now working to develop a biological system to create these molecules, which would give us the opportunity to engineer large quantities.”

The research team has partnered with a Toronto-based company, Anahit International Corp., which has licensed a patent from the University of Guelph to biosynthesize cannflavin A and B outside of the cannabis plant.

“Anahit looks forward to working closely with University of Guelph researchers to develop effective and safe anti-inflammatory medicines from cannabis phytochemicals that would provide an alternative to non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs,” said Anahit chief operating officer Darren Carrigan.

“Anahit will commercialize the application of cannflavin A and B to be accessible to consumers through a variety of medical and athletic products such as creams, pills, sports drinks, transdermal patches and other innovative options.”

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