This is where Vancouver-based CannaReps, a private education program founded by cannabis expert and headmaster Adolfo Gonzalez, comes into play.
Recently, CannaReps started delivering its very own Cannabis Sommelier Course, which provides attendees with the chance to practice academic and sensory skills with interactive activities, labs, tastings and discussions while also learning responsible product guidance by discussing plant botany and breaking down buds. The idea behind the course is to attract professionals from all walks of life who are interested in the cannabis industry and need mentorship and professional development support.
While Gonzalez explains the program previously offered a similar course, which specifically trained dispensary workers, the most recent iteration has been on offer for just six months.“It just had to morph a bit because of the laws, and also because we realize that we designed the course originally to train dispensary workers, but then when we actually started running the company, it was an incredibly broad section of the public that was attending, not only retail workers,” he says.
Since then, CannaReps has brought the course to Calgary, Vancouver and, most recently, Toronto.
Julie Domingo, CEO of CannaReps, says many of the cities selected to host the course largely depend on whether or not the municipalities will have government-run stores only. “We like to ensure that we can maximize the potential of us being there, and so when Ontario announced that they would allow some private retail, too, that was the perfect opportunity.”
Held at the Lifford Cannabis Solutions office in downtown Toronto, the Toronto course was sold out with a diverse group of 35 registrants and others on a waiting list. “We know that there’s hunger for this knowledge in Toronto, and we want to bring the same program back,” shares Domingo.
Over its history, the course has attracted a range of people, she says, including people who are patients, entrepreneurs, dispensary managers and owners, growers, medical professionals, researchers, career-seekers and students.
Gonzalez, with more than 15 years of hands-on experience in everything from cultivating cannabis to frontline patient advocacy, lead the two-day event. Jars of various cannabis strains lined each of the tables. Equipped with a pocket-sized microscope and medical gloves, each registrant was instructed to pluck a single bud from the jar. Many in the classroom would marvel at its size and beauty.
But as part of the “cannabis sommeliers” education, Gonzalez wanted participants (both as individuals and as a group) to challenge themselves to cut through the sensory noise and observe things such as extraneous aromas, flavours, shapes, colour and crystal residues to identify the essence of whatever bud was being presented. “It’s just the tools you need to practise because it’s like any sensory skill or understanding any culture,” Gonzalez notes, citing the value of truly immersing oneself in that culture.