Education

Western Illinois explores cannabis classes

Other Quad City-area schools say they're not interested

FILE - In this March 22, 2019, file photo, a marijuana plant grows at the Compassionate Care Foundation's grow house in
FILE - In this March 22, 2019, file photo, a marijuana plant grows at the Compassionate Care Foundation's grow house in Egg Harbor Township, N.J. In 2018, the first year after recreational marijuana use was legalized in Vermont, the number of drivers stopped for impaired driving who had THC in their systems more than doubled, according to state police data requested by The Associated Press. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez, File)

DAVENPORT — Western Illinois University is the only college or university with a Quad Cities presence that is exploring having some sort of cannabis curriculum.

The details are being sorted out, but there is interest, said Billy Clow, its interim provost and academic vice president.

In a survey of area higher education institutions, WIU was the only school that said it was exploring a potential cannabis program. Black Hawk Community College, Augustana College, St. Ambrose University and Eastern Iowa Community Colleges said they were not interested.

“We’re exploring everything that is out there, really. We’re looking at the opportunity to maybe have certificate options. We’re looking at having, could have, a minor or a major in different areas,” Clow said.

Potential courses would include culture, botany, chemistry, agriculture and even hemp, which is part of the same plant as marijuana but contains a much lower amount of THC, the psychoactive part of the plant that leads users to experience euphoria.

But WIU’s exploration will be lengthy. Any student looking for a course offering next fall will likely be disappointed.

Any new course has “to be approved by various shared governance groups on campus until, eventually, it gets to the provost office and the president’s office. So any type of course or entire program goes through a heavy process of scrutiny,” Clow said.

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“I think we want to move as quickly as we can, but I think we have to be cautious and careful as we go through, just like with any new offering.”

Clow said part of the process includes looking at the financial implications of a new program and faculty or staff needs for what could ultimately be proposed.

“We do want to move quickly to become part of the conversation and would really love to be at the forefront of innovation in the state of Illinois,” Clow said.

The Illinois Department of Agriculture is expected next week to release details on a pilot program for coursework, with colleges likely to be certified weeks later. It will be open to eight community colleges, and the classes would begin for the fall semester of the 2020-2021 school year.

Oakton Community College, in Des Plaines in Chicagoland, has already started its own program, which consists of a seven-course, 12-credit hour offering. No plants are grown as students instead learn about molecular biology, drug laws and treating terminal illness, according to the Chicago Tribune.

Students who complete the curriculum will be trained as cannabis dispensary and patient care specialists, meaning they could work in either recreational or medical marijuana settings.

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