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Two universities to offer cannabis degrees

February 11, 2020
college courses about marijuana
Universities are offering cannabis programs to help students establish careers in the young industry. (Freedomz/AdobeStock)

University students interested in learning more about the cannabis industry and potentially carving out a career in the industry will soon have the opportunity to do so with two new programs being offered through Western Illinois University and Colorado State University.

The art of growing cannabis will become a minor subject at Western Illinois University in the fall, school officials announced Monday.

The university’s school of agriculture in Macomb is acting on interest officials expressed in such a class before adult-use marijuana became legal in January. The minor in cannabis production will require 18 to 19 credit hours with additional coursework offered by Western Illinois’ department of biological sciences.

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School of agriculture director Andy Baker says faculty members are still working on partnerships with hemp producers and those in the recreational and medical marijuana businesses.

“There’s certainly enough hemp producers in the state that (students) could get experience working in the field,” Baker said. “There’s going to be some opportunities and we’re still developing those relationships.”

Bakers says he anticipating class sizes of 20 to 30 students, adding that in addition to graduating marijuana growers, there is a new bureau for cannabis regulation in the Illinois Department of Agriculture. That means there are going to be new employment opportunities in the state.

Recreational marijuana sales in Illinois totaled nearly $40 million in the first month, according to state officials.

Meanwhile, Colorado State University is expected to launch the program this fall at its Pueblo campus about 115 miles (185 kilometers) south of Denver, The Denver Post reported.

'It’s a rigorous degree geared toward the increasing demand coming about because of the cannabis industry.'
David Lehmpuhl, College of Science and Mathematics Dean

The Cannabis, Biology, and Chemistry program would focus on the science necessary to work in the cannabis field and emphasize natural products and analytical chemistry, officials said.

“It’s a rigorous degree geared toward the increasing demand coming about because of the cannabis industry,” College of Science and Mathematics dean David Lehmpuhl said. “Hemp and marijuana has really come to the forefront in a lot of economic sectors in the country. We’re not pro-cannabis or anti-cannabis. What we’re about will be the science, and training students to look at that science.”

The curriculum would be similar to double-majoring in biology and chemistry, officials said.

The natural products coursework would place students in a lab setting to learn about the genetics of cannabis or other plants with additional courses in neurobiology, biochemistry, and genetics, university officials said.

The analytical chemistry coursework would also place students in a lab setting to learn about the chemical compounds, such as determining what kind of cannabidiol concentration should exist in a product, university officials said.

The lab is licensed to grow industrial hemp and students might work with CBD, officials said.

The Colorado State University system also has plans to open a new research center on the Fort Collins campus dedicated to studying cannabinoids this spring.

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