Oakton to build cannabis program cultivation lab

Individuals looking to make their mark on the cannabis industry soon will have access to unique, hands-on learning opportunities in a brand-new cultivation lab at Oakton Community College, thanks to a gift from PharmaCann, a leading national cannabis company.

Of PharmaCann's $600,000 donation to the Oakton Educational Foundation, $550,000 will support building the new lab on Oakton's Des Plaines campus. The remaining $50,000 will establish the PharmaCann Scholarship for Cannabis Education Programs. Scholarship priority will be given to students of color, individuals adversely impacted by previous cannabis laws and domestic violence victims.

"We are honored and humbled by PharmaCann's generosity, and are excited about the opportunities this will create for our students and communities," said Oakton President Joianne L. Smith. "Both Oakton and PharmaCann's missions are strongly rooted in equity and we share a commitment of building stronger, more just communities through education."

Oakton's cultivation lab is the first at an Illinois community college. It will allow Oakton to expand its cannabis curriculum by introducing a 12-credit hour Cannabis Cultivation Certificate Program.

Lab construction is expected to be completed later this year. Pending Illinois Community College Board approval, lab-based cannabis education will begin in spring 2022.

The 2,900-square-foot cultivation lab will include humidity, temperature, aeration and security controls. The space will include three grow rooms, as well as areas for plant drying and waste.

As growing cannabis on college campuses would violate current federal law, students will initially train with plants that are botanically-identical to cannabis in the new lab.

Through hands-on lab instruction, students will learn how to cultivate, cure and dry plants to prepare them for processing and packaging. Understanding the seed to harvest growth cycle will prepare students for a broader range of opportunities in the cannabis industry, specifically in dispensaries and cultivation and craft grow centers.

Oakton's Community College Cannabis Vocational Pilot Program license application is pending. The licenses, issued by the Illinois Department of Agriculture, would allow up to eight Illinois community colleges to enable students to work with, study and grow live cannabis plants in an on-campus cultivation facility.

PharmaCann's contribution to Oakton supports its social equity responsibility, per the Illinois Cannabis Regulation and Tax Act. With equity central to both PharmaCann's and Oakton's missions, this gift seeks to create access to the cannabis industry for individuals from diverse demographics and backgrounds, and with varying life experiences and perspectives.

"It is a privilege to partner with Oakton to support the education of the next generation of cannabis industry leaders," said Brett Novey, CEO of PharmaCann.

"This progressive, hands-on approach to cannabis education will help drive positive, systemic change for the betterment of our local communities by building a more highly skilled and diverse workforce to support our growing industry."

Later this month, Oakton will begin hosting a series of cannabis dispensary license workshops, helping prospective license applicants navigate the state's licensing process and move closer to beginning careers in the cannabis industry.

The free, virtual sessions are supported by a grant from the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity, and are geared toward individuals who qualify as social equity applicants.

Register for workshops at

For information about cannabis education at Oakton Community College, contact

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