By Denise Paglinawan
Professor Brad Poulos stands at the front of his class, watching as his students file in, pick up their name cards and take a seat.
Though it’s late on a Tuesday night, the class is filled with people of all ages, with almost every chair in the room taken. As students introduce themselves to their peers, many seem to have the same goal in mind: to start their own business.
With its launch this semester, the Business of Cannabis Chang School course is the first of its kind in Ontario. It has attracted enrollees ranging from small business owners, LCBO marketing employees, financial analysts, and craft cannabis growers.
The course is a response to the legalization of weed in Canada on Oct. 17 and aims to introduce how to apply the principles of business to the country’s cannabis industry.
Spots filled up quickly, a reflection of the course’s popularity. Poulos says enrollment for the winter semester is also completely filled.
Dean Thornback, a graduate from York University, said he heard about the Business of Cannabis after his mother forwarded him a Global News interview with Chang School Dean Marie Bountrogianni about the course.
Thornback said he hopes to transition from his job in the finance industry to one in the cannabis industry—and possibly develop his own business along the way.
“I think [this class] could help me navigate new laws, regulations and licensing procedures if I were to begin developing a startup cannabis company,” he said. “A lot of what will be taught in the course would be relevant information to know and I feel it could help with finding a job in the legal cannabis industry.”
Meanwhile, small business owner Kevin Martin finds the course an opportunity to learn from cannabis experts and network with people with the same interest as him.
“I’m really excited to be part of a groundbreaking industry and to have a chance to learn at university and make contact with interesting people,” said Martin. “There are a lot of really interesting people involved with this course.”
Martin currently runs his own small business of audio and video car installations and other kinds of repairs. He said he took the course because of his interest in the cannabis industry, and because he hopes it will help his business management skills.
Ryerson is currently the only university to offer a business course on cannabis in Ontario but Poulos said he would not be surprised if other schools followed Ryerson’s steps.
Durham College recently offered a specialization certificate on the cannabis industry and Niagara College offers a graduate certificate program in commercial cannabis production.
“Ryerson is probably the top entrepreneurship school in Canada, and this is the most exciting new biz area to come along in a while. [It’s] a perfect fit,” said Poulos. He started researching the cannabis industry a few years ago, and just last year came up with the idea for a business of cannabis course.
He plans to have his students draft their own business plans as one of their projects. Poulos said he will also encourage networking, sharing ideas and problems amongst his students.
He said one of the best things the course offered was its access to experts and successful business owners in the cannabis industry—something that is difficult to find outside of a school setting.