Since the legalization of recreational cannabis use in Canada, there has been an emergence of roles and opportunities to work in this new and expansive industry. This is where The Business of Cannabis course offered by Ryerson University’s G. Raymond Chang School of Continuing Education comes in. It is an introductory course intended to give students insight into the cannabis industry in Canada, and specifically, Ontario. Students learn how to apply entrepreneurship principles, such as opportunity recognition and evaluation, as well as develop an introductory understanding of cannabis legislation at federal and provincial levels. Weekly guest lectures from industry experts cover topics from cultivation, processing, and distribution to the marketing and selling of cannabis in Canada.
We had the chance to connect with two former students to hear what they found valuable about the course and how it has helped them discover their current career path in the cannabis industry.
Mitchell Burke, a current student at Ryerson University’s Ted Rogers School of Management, took The Business of Cannabis course after seeing advertising and noticing that the industry was rapidly growing in Canada. “I was doing my research about what was happening in the industry and where I could possibly get involved,” he says. The Chang School course offered an opportunity for Mitchell to meet people with similar interests, get a layout of the industry and see what it had to offer.
Whilst undertaking his undergrad at Ryerson, Mitchell highlighted that he particularly enjoyed that during each week of his continuing education course there was something new that captured his attention. “If there was something that piqued your interest, you could take it away and do your own research deeper into the subject.” What really stood out to Mitchell were the industry experts that came in every single week for the course duration. It was through their “real world” expertise that Mitchell was able to find out more information about the regulations and guidelines for operating cannabis facilities.
“I spoke to one of the lawyers who came in as a guest speaker. I asked him where I could learn more about the guidelines for the operation of cannabis facilities. He gave me a regulation booklet and explained where I could find even more information online…I saw the need for helping business owners with the application process, so that’s where the idea of my business came from.”
While studying, Mitchell started his own consulting business, Quintessence Consulting, where he advises on business strategy and regulatory compliance for companies in Canada and the Caribbean. “Almost everything I deal with on a day to day basis was touched upon in The Business of Cannabis course in some capacity,” he says.
Although this course set Mitchell on his current path in the cannabis industry, his favourite part was the people – getting to know others in the class who were equally passionate about getting into the industry as well as the expert guest lecturers. He still is in contact with many of them today.
“The Business of Cannabis course really laid the foundation for me. I would not be where I am right now if it was not for this course. It provided an overview of the entire industry and gave me the general idea of how the space works, how the supply chain operates, and the skills needed to succeed in the industry. Just speaking with the industry experts that came in and asking them specific questions about the industry gave me the ability to excel and have the knowledge to grow in this space.”
Michaela Freedman is a formally trained Archaeologist who completed her Master’s in Bioarchaeology from the University of Leicester in the United Kingdom. Although a career in the cannabis industry wasn’t what she initially planned on pursuing, Michaela got into cannabis through her own health journey and decided to look into the industry further. With no formal training in business, she decided to take The Business of Cannabis course to learn the foundations of the industry.
Deciding to enrol in continuing education with The Chang School was the right choice for Michaela because she knew she wanted practical knowledge, networking opportunities and applicable learning. “While I was taking the course is really when I took the opportunity to reach out to guest lecturers after the class. I didn’t wait. The course allowed me to dive into my job search ASAP because they provided the resources, every class,” she says.
Although Michaela worked in a clinical role in the cannabis industry prior to taking the course, she really wanted to explore the business side. “I knew I wanted to work in business and in cannabis. But in terms of what aspect or what role, I really wasn’t sure until I took this course. I think the biggest takeaway of this course for me was understanding the supply chain and figuring out each phase,” she says. Through the classes and network of industry experts, she found her niche and started her own business.
“The work I do now is research on regulation and licensing protocols to sell cannabis for legal purposes. Whether that’s for lawsuits, legal cases or just purposes for developing businesses overseas. I am also brokering supply agreements between licensed producers both domestically and internationally.”
International work was important for Michaela in starting her new career. “As an archaeologist, I love world cultures and I love to travel. When I was choosing another career after that, I really wanted to do something that involved travelling or international opportunities…I’m happy about the international opportunities cannabis has – that has always been an interest and driver of mine,” she comments.
“The course really helped me with the building blocks in the business of cannabis. It also allowed me to recognize the different business opportunities, especially as a consultant or freelancer. Without the course, I would have never been able to understand those two aspects.”
Some Final Thoughts
Both Mitchell and Michaela offered some final pieces of advice to anyone considering Continuing Education at The Chang School.
“For anyone who is going back to school and continuing education, take advantage of the resources that they give you. Ryerson has ample resources and I used as many as I could to get that full educational background,” says Michaela.
“Don’t take learning for granted, absorb as much knowledge as you can and network! It’s important to keep in touch with the professors, even after class. They love to hear from you and love to see when you succeed. Not many people in the world get these chances,” comments Mitchell.
Program Director of Business programs at The Chang School, Dr. Linda Koechli, added: “Although we’ve recently seen periods of volatility within the cannabis sector, there are still many exciting and diverse opportunities for those looking to break into the industry. Employers are looking for professionals who have specific industry knowledge so taking a cannabis course is a great avenue to learn about current trends, risks and practices and a way to build a strong advantage for those potentially seeking a job in the cannabis market.”
The Business of Cannabis was listed as one of Maclean’s Magazine’s “cool courses” in 2019 and is part of the Course Series in Cannabis Essentials available at The Chang School. Want to explore other continuing education programs available? Visit The Chang School’s profile on TalentEgg.