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Meet Canada’s Coolest Cannabis Professors

August 22, 2019

Majoring in weed” used to be shorthand for slacking off, but thanks to legalization, Canadian postsecondary and continuing education students can study cannabis within a variety of disciplines, from sociology to agriculture, chemistry, business, and beyond.

It’s serious stuff, but if you’re lucky enough to study with one of these six instructors, you can rest assured that it’s also still incredibly cool.

Dr. Rebecca Haines-Saah

Assistant Professor, Department of Community Health Sciences, University of Calgary
Specialities: Sociology, public health, harm reduction, and drug policy

Before becoming an academic, Dr. Rebecca Haines-Saah was better known for her role as Kathleen Mead on Degrassi, the series that laid the groundwork for the re-booted Degrassi: The Next Generation—you know, the one that launched Drake’s career. Some would even say that without Haines-Saah and her cohort, there would be no Drake.

Not that you’ll hear Haines-Saah arguing that, she’s far too busy researching the culture and context of youth cannabis use, reminding academics how class privilege colours their worldview, and creating tools for honest cannabis conversations with young people. If you’re lucky, you might catch her demonstrating her encyclopedic knowledge of 90s hip-hop lyrics, too.

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Students interested in studying with Dr. Haines-Saah can reach out through her University of Calgary faculty page, or for a faster response, through Twitter.

Haines-Saah also encourages up and coming cannabis researchers to join her at the Canadian Consortium for the Investigation of Cannabinoids annual conference in Banff next March. “If you are new to cannabis research, this is a great chance to get immersed in the field,” she says, noting that the sessions will also include a trainee spotlight.

Dr. Akwasi Owusu-Bempah

Assistant Professor, Department of Sociology, University of Toronto
Specialties: Cannabis legalization; race, crime, and criminal justice

Do you want to explore the racist and classist history underpinning drug enforcement? Do you want to learn from a professor students call “amazing”  and “engaging” and who is also a Broadbent Policy Fellow and Massey College Senior Fellow?

Then you should sign up for a course with Dr. Akwasi Owusu-Bempah, who credits his parents for fostering the sense of social justice that inspires his academic work.

“I think it’s great to see the excitement and opportunity that surrounds the huge cultural shift that is cannabis legalization,” he says. “I hope the chance to benefit from legalization is shared across our society.”

Dr. Owusu-Bempah welcomes supervision requests from graduate and post-doctoral students—find everything you need here. Not a U of T student? That’s alright. Follow Owusu-Bempah on Twitter to learn about upcoming public lectures and read his commentary in news stories, to which he contributes frequently. Or, check out his TED Talk here.

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Gill Polard

Instructor, Cannabis Education Program, Mount Royal University
Specialties: Marketing under the Cannabis Act, legalization, safe access to cannabis

If the name Gill Polard sounds familiar, perhaps you’ve read her articles on The Her(B) Life, the website she created, or listened to High Friends or Sessions, the podcasts she co-hosts and executive produces, respectively.

A passionate advocate for safe access to cannabis, Polard is also training a new generation of cannabis professionals in legally-compliant social media marketing through her Mount Royal University course, Marketing Under the Cannabis Act.

Dedicated to mentoring her students well after they’ve completed her class, Polard takes a long view of the future of cannabis. “Now, as my kids get older I’m thinking about the future and the idea of leaving a legacy behind,” she says. “I want my grandbabies and their grandbabies to be proud of the work I’ve been doing and the effort I put toward something I believe in.”

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Brad Poulos

Instructor, Ted Rogers School of Management, Ryerson
Specialties: Entrepreneurship, lean startups

Got a mind for business and a ken for cannabis? Brad Poulos is ready to help you take your ambitions higher with his continuing education class in the Business of Cannabis (course code, CZEN 420, naturally). Learn about financing, distribution, marketing, cultivation, and more from this well-reviewed instructor, but if that’s all you think you’ll get from Brad Poulos, think again.

A self-described polymath, Poulos has taken paying gigs as a jeweller and watchmaker, an electronics technician, a teacher, an entrepreneur, a salesperson, an audio engineer, and a musician. You can also catch him banging the keys with his classic rock band Southpawz, which plays clubs and festivals across the Greater Toronto Area.

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Bill MacDonald

Coordinator and Professor, Commercial Cannabis Production Program, Niagara College Canada
Specialties: Cannabis production and science

You know you’re doing something right when your Friday afternoon class on cannabis regulations maintains a 100% attendance rate.

Bill MacDonald, who holds a master’s in science, and teaches regulations as well as cannabis production science, calls the plant “God’s gift to teaching,” but it’s likely his practical approach to instruction is another reason students stay till 5:30 p.m. on the cusp of a weekend.

“There are a lot of dogmas out there that cannabis has to be grown a certain way, and someone has the ‘secret formula,’” he says. “Nonsense. Jump in and learn.”

As passionate as he is about preparing his students to work in the cannabis industry, he’s also stoked about the study environment: “I work in a CannaBunker, surrounded by an 8-foot fence, security cameras, and barbed wire, on campus—and there’s cannabis inside,” he says. “Students graduate knowing what it is really like work at an LP.” Interested students, take note: the CannaBunker is expanding in order to conduct more research.

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Natasha Perkins

Professor, Loyalist University
Specialties: Cannabis regulations, management consulting, entrepreneurship

“My pure love and amazement for the biology of cannabis motivates me to share knowledge and ideas with willing students,” says Natasha Perkins, who developed and teaches the Navigating Cannabis Regulations course at Loyalist College, as part of the school’s certificate program in Cannabis Applied Science.

Passionate about cannabis and the science around it, Perkins has held several cannabis marketing and business development roles and is well-connected in the industry. Interested students can expect plenty of real-world anecdotes and advice from Perkins, whether they’re seeking a role in an existing business or planning to build their own.

To learn more, check out Loyalist University’s Cannabis Applied Science program, or contact Perkins directly through LinkedIn or Twitter.

Devon Scoble's Bio Image
Devon Scoble

Devon Scoble is the Guides Editor for Leafly Canada. Devon has over a decade's experience as a lifestyle writer and editor, and has spent the last three years focusing exclusively on cannabis stories. Find her on Twitter @devonscoble.

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