Langara College builds on cannabis science

Expanding cannabis science will help growers, fund lab space and boost students’ resumes

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By Graham Abraham

This story has been updated to correct Kelly Sveinson and Michael Danquah’s titles and to include Pure Sunfarms’ expectations in partnering with Langara and how it will provide peer-reviewed product quality. 

New laboratory space for students will be one of the benefits of a five-year project between Langara and Canadian cannabis growers.

Money for new lab space, equipment

Kelly Sveinson, Langara chemistry instructor and director of Langara’s Applied Research Centre, which conducts research with companies, said the project, which involves three cannabis companies and the federal government, has received approximately $4.5 million. He said about half of that will go to college infrastructure. Federal grants provided $3.3 million, while the other $1.2 million came from private cannabis companies.

“So, we’re facilitating construction of laboratory space, as well as acquiring the most advanced type of equipment that’s available on the market today.”

Funding to help students

The centre also hopes the project give students experience in the industry.

“We hope that we . . . will provide them with background and experience that differentiates them from other people that are trying to get employed,” said Sveinson. “We might create some job opportunities.”

Legalization has allowed for expanded peer-reviewed research on cannabis, which will benefit growers in the industry. Biology Instructor Ji Yong Yang, principal scientist on the project, says one of their goals will be to study the plant’s microbial features.

“I think research improves our knowledge base and therefore improves our teaching.”

While Yang points to the knowledge base and improvement in teaching that research provides, he also emphases what this will mean for students. They will get hands-on opportunities they wouldn’t already have, he says.

“I think one of the reasons why I’m interested in research is to provide opportunities for younger students,” Yang said.

Expanding scientific study

One of the businesses funding the project is excited about the scientific benefits

Michael Danquah, physical chemist and Pure Sunfarms’ research and development manager, says that Langara’s work will improve product quality and hopes that Pure Sunfarms will “make a name out there when it comes to . . . cannabis research.”

“Being able to understand the flower chemistry, so that it will improve our in-house drying and processing method . . . when it comes to the cannabis 2.0 products [edibles, vapes, beverages, oils and topicals], it’s also going to help us understand . . . new products,” said Danquah on how the partnership could change current processes and standards in the industry.

Michael Lattimer, Pure Sunfarms’ vice president of operations, believes Langara College will provide scientific peer-reviewed expertise to the first-hand knowledge of cannabis legacy growers.

“It’s about doing scientific study to actually understand what’s driving what they’ve seen for years and years,” said Lattimer. “We can move forward and make great decisions on how we want to optimize our product quality.”

Research is expected to commence mid-November.

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