Another Green Degree?


Photographs courtesy of Photo by Pixabay

If Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker legalizes recreational marijuana use in the state, there will need to be an influx of qualified individuals rushing to fill the niche of this industry. Applicants with aptitudes in biochemistry and horticulture will have to train as landscapers, cultivators, and other marijuana operators. Those more interested in the pharmacological aspects of the plant might end up working in dispensaries.

Multiple universities in the state are already in the process of creating more opportunities for students to educate themselves on cannabis. Oakton Community College in Des Plaines plans on initiating a program to help train students to work with medical marijuana patients. Southern Illinois University Carbondale intends to combine some of its preexisting classes with new marijuana- focused courses to make a “cannabis certificate program” comprised of 30 credit hours.

With this in mind, will the University of Illinois Springfield follow suit? Dr. Stephen Johnson, associate professor of biochemistry and science laboratory director, is doubtful. “If Governor Pritzker backs an initiative to legalize the recreational use of marijuana, I do not think that this will change the degree or course offerings in the University of Illinois System,” he said. “The physiologically active components are already well studied in the fields of pharmacology and biochemistry.”

Even if the university does not create a cannabis program, students looking to enter this subfield can do so in many indirect ways that will help them keep up with their competitors. Marijuana operators are looking for applicants that have experience with growing plants and working in greenhouses, for instance. Many of those who currently work with marijuana had never actually touched the plant until they got a job as a trimmer or dispensary worker.

Johnson stated that there is still a way for students to earn qualifications while studying at UIS:

“Students who are interested in the interaction of molecules and their physiological targets should pursue undergraduate curricula in biochemistry or related fields and then pursue a graduate program in pharmacology and neuroscience. This will provide the student with the foundation needed to understand targets like the cannabinoid receptor and the subsequent effects of the use of such compounds.”

For those who are just curious or would like to take a class for more knowledge, UIS offers classes such as Psychoactive Drugs and Medical Botany.