MACOMB, Ill. — Students at Western Illinois University interested in careers in Cannabis Production will have that option in the fall.
According to Forbes, the cannabis industry is among the fastest-growing job markets in America. According to Leafly’s 2019 Cannabis Jobs Count, cannabis directly employs more than 211,000 full-time workers in the U.S.
Western’s Faculty Senate approved the new minor at its meeting Feb. 4. Offered through WIU’s School of Agriculture, the majority of courses for the 18-19 credit hour minor will be offered through the school, with additional coursework offered through the Department of Biological Sciences.
Cannabis sales became legal in January in Illinois. Illinois marijuana dispensaries sold nearly $40 million worth of recreational weed during the state’s first month of legal sales, according to figures released by the state Department of Financial and Professional Regulation. Dispensaries sold over 970,000 products.
A new course within the program, “Cannabis Biology and Production,” as well as the minor itself, will assist with developing employees for the new Illinois industry in cannabis production, said School of Agriculture Director Andy Baker.
“We’re excited to be a part of this flourishing industry and providing in-demand, and new, academic opportunities for our students,” said WIU Interim President Martin Abraham in a press release. “Because of our many years of work in alternative crops, and the outstanding expertise of our faculty at Western, we are in a unique position to be at the forefront of cannabis studies.”
Shelby Henning, horticulture professor in the School of Agriculture, will lead the biology/production course, which includes cannabis anatomy, physiology, breeding, propagation methods, management techniques, post-harvest processing, commercial production, crop rotations and product applications.
“The U.S. Farm Bill of 2014 legalized industrial hemp for research by state agriculture departments and universities. School of Agriculture Professor Win Phippen, who leads our alternative crops program, has been conducting research on hemp for several years, and most recently, added a cannabis component to his research,” noted Baker. “This new course and minor are perfect complements to our comprehensive agriculture degree program.”
Other courses available in the minor, which already exist through the School of Agriculture and Department of Biological Sciences include crop sciences, introduction to horticulture, introduction to plant biology, genetics in biology and agriculture, pest management, plant structure, plant physiology, landscape construction and management, greenhouse and nursery management, plant breeding, crop improvement and hydroponic plant production.
For more information about the new minor, contact the School of Agriculture at (309) 298-1080 or AJ-Baker@wiu.edu.