MACOMB, Ill. — Western Illinois University will begin offering a cannabis production minor in the fall of 2020.

Western's Faculty Senate approved the new minor at a Feb. 4 meeting. The university said the course will develop employees for the new Illinois cannabis industry, which has boomed since recreational marijuana was legalized this year.

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Cannabis directly employs more than 211,000 full-time American workers, according to marijuana information firm Leafly.

"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."

The minor will be offered through the university's School of Agriculture and will require 18-19 credit hours. Most hours will be offered through the agriculture school, with additional coursework offered through the Department of Biological Sciences.

Most of the agriculture- and biology-based courses offered through the minor already existed, and a new course, "Cannabis Biology and Production," has been created just for the minor.

"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," said School of Agriculture Director Andy Baker. "This new course and minor are perfect complements to our comprehensive agriculture degree program."

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