Oakton Community College will build a 2,900-square-foot marijuana cultivation lab on its Des Plaines campus -- the first facility of its kind for an Illinois community college -- through a $600,000 donation from the cannabis company PharmaCann Inc., school leaders announced Tuesday.
The school also will earmark $50,000 from the donation for the PharmaCann Scholarship for Cannabis Education Programs. Priority for the scholarships will be given to students of color, people adversely affected by prior marijuana laws, and victims of domestic violence.
Oakton President Joianne Smith said equity and the opportunity to improve the existing educational program at the college were seen as priorities for these coming steps.
"We are incredibly grateful for the opportunities that lie ahead," she said.
Oakton in 2019 launched first cannabis-specific academic program in Illinois.
Steve Fix, Oakton Cannabis Studies faculty chair, said the curriculum will be able to offer more opportunities with the cultivation lab.
"The cannabis industry is changing very rapidly, and the workforce needs to change along with it," he said.
Brett Novey, CEO of PharmaCann, said it was an honor for his company to partner with Illinois' first community college with a hands-on training program to prepare workers for the cannabis industry.
Because current federal law does not allow cannabis to be grown on campus, botanically identical plants such as hemp and tomatoes will be used in the lab. If and when the law changes, the lab will be able to provide students a more accurate experience, officials said.
Construction of the lab is expected to begin in July and be completed in time for the semester beginning in January 2022.