WIU to offer cannabis production minor in fall 2020

MACOMB, Ill. (NEWS3) – Western Illinois University will offer a minor in cannabis production in fall 2020.

Officials said the WIU Faculty Senate approved the new minor at its Feb. 4 meeting. The minor will be offered through WIU’s School of Agriculture, with the majority of courses for the 18-19 credit hour minor offered through the school and additional coursework offered through the Department of Biological Sciences.

WIU School of Agriculture Director Andy Baker said 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.

“We’re excited to be a part of this flourishing industry and providing in-demand, and new, academic opportunities for our students,” WIU Interim President Martin Abraham said. “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.”

Officials said WIU Horticulture Professor Shelby Henning 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,” Baker said. “This new course and minor are perfect complements to our comprehensive agriculture degree program.”

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.