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Demand grows for marijuana cultivation courses in Illinois

SIU in Carbondale plans to package existing classes with a couple of cannabis-focused courses for a 30-credit hour cannabis certificate program.
Credit: AP
In this Feb. 14, 2019 photo, Colton Welch, a junior at the State University of New York at Morrisville, N.Y., tends hydroponic tomato plants which will provide students with data applicable to cannabis cultivation. The college's new minor in cannabis studies is among a handful of new university programs aimed at preparing students for careers in marijuana and hemp industries. (AP Photo/Marry Esch)

CHICAGO (AP) — More colleges are beginning to offer classes in growing and handling marijuana as demand for such skills from growers and dispensaries increases.

Colleges and universities in Illinois are noticing the benefits of preparing students for the industry but that there are restrictions on how fast the schools can offer new programming, the Chicago Tribune reported.

Karen Midden, interim dean of the College of Agricultural Sciences at Southern Illinois University in Carbondale, said she receives near-daily inquiries about the school's cannabis program, and cultivators also call looking for students with expertise.

"People think it's some magical thing you have to learn to grow marijuana," Midden said. In reality, she said, the basic skills required to operate any greenhouse can be applied to cultivating cannabis in a greenhouse.

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SIU in Carbondale plans to package existing classes with a couple of cannabis-focused courses for a 30-credit hour cannabis certificate program. That likely won't be available until the end of the year, Midden said.

Numerous Illinois marijuana cultivators are expanding their growing facilities with an eye on fulfilling the demands of a medical marijuana program that added more than 27,000 patients in the past year. Gov. J. B. Pritzker is also toying with the idea of legalizing recreational marijuana use in the state, which could further increase demand. Sen. Heather Steans, D-Chicago, has been collaborating with other legislators to draft a legalization measure that they hope can get passed by May.

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Oakton Community College in Des Plaines announced last month that it was launching a program to train students in working with medical marijuana patients.

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Schools are launching cannabis courses or degree programs the nation over.

Northern Michigan University created a four-year medicinal plant chemistry degree in the fall of 2017. Twenty students joined in the first semester and enrollment jumped to 220 the following year.

Last fall, the University of California at Davis created a class about how cannabis compounds impact the human body. And last month, Oakton Community College in Des Plaines said it was launching a program that would train students in how to work with medical marijuana patients.

Additionally, marijuana law classes are becoming increasingly common, with courses being offered at schools in Colorado, Ohio and Chicago.

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