Ryerson researchers perfecting pot plants

Researcher Steve Naraine at a Tweed, Inc. facility in Smiths Falls, Ont. (Courtesy Tweed)

Ryerson researcher Steve Naraine at a Tweed, Inc. facility in Smiths Falls, Ont. (Courtesy Tweed, Inc.)

Ryerson researchers are homing in on what makes the best conditions for growing weed.

A small research team from Ryerson is working with a publicly traded medical marijuana harvester and supplier to determine the best kind of light for growing premium pot.

“We looked at how light can affect yield, how light can affect potencies,” said Steve Naraine, a Ryerson medical physics graduate and one of two researchers studying the effects of different kinds of light on marijuana growth under Lesley Campbell, an assistant professor in Ryerson’s chemistry and biology department.

Campbell’s research aims to improve consistency and quality among plants.

The Ryerson team is working with Tweed, Inc., which is located in Smiths Falls, Ont.

Tweed vice-president Mark Zekulin said, “Some more work needs to be done, but we’re almost at the point where we can see what the results are.

“We view it as a really new and exciting opportunity,” said Zekulin. “We deal with such a unique product that for so many years there hasn’t been a single regulatory environment that would let you have a business — that has our interests — to attract researchers…it’s been great to go down that path.”

Naraine, who has a background in cannabis research, proposed a study to Campbell when he was a student in her botany course.

She was intrigued and accepted the proposal.

In the fall of 2013, their small team of researchers approached Tweed.

Tweed expressed interest in their project, “because it would benefit them from the very beginning of their company, and it would yield benefits from then on,” Naraine said.

The team is working on a $25,000 Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) grant that covers researchers’ salaries and equipment costs. Once their research is finished, all intellectual property will belong to Tweed.

According to the Canadian Medical Cannabis Industry Association, which represents the newly licensed producers, Tweed is one of 21 high-volume marijuana harvesting companies to receive a production licence in Canada.

It used to be that loosely-regulated growers cared for plants in their homes for personal medical use. That changed this spring, when private companies took over production.

This area of marijuana research is still considered touchy by professors and government funding agencies.

“A hurdle I’m facing currently is finding funding, like grants. For example, CIHR (Canadian Institutes of Health Research), they won’t touch anything cannabis or marijuana related,” said Naraine.

When funding is found, Naraine expects to continue his work with Campbell and Tweed.

“The program still needs quite a bit of refining before its optimal,” said Naraine. “We’re just waiting for more funding.”

This story was first published in The Ryersonian, a weekly newspaper produced by the Ryerson School of Journalism, on Sept. 24, 2014.

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