socastcmsRssStartBy Greg Bishop | Illinois News NetworksocastcmsRssEnd
Southern Illinois University is starting a new research initiative into cannabis.
The SIU initiative announced last week is aimed at creating a program to support agriculture and industry with research and training.
“We’re getting this request and input from stakeholders, who are reaching out to us, telling us they need the science,” SIU Dean of the College of Agricultural Science Karen Midden said. “But we’re also getting it from students – current and potential students – that they would like to have programs to prepare them for work in these areas.”
Marijuana Policy Project Senior Legislative Counsel Chris Lindsey said the move is encouraging, especially as the cannabis industry continues to grow.
“If you wanted to start a business, you’d have to have people that are capable and knowledgeable in these areas,” Lindsey said. “I think it’s great that Illinois is looking at this as a potential area where they can actually learn those lessons and prepare the folks in the community to be involved.”
The program includes a five-acre research plot focusing on hemp and medicinal cannabis. The plot is being cleared and will be planted with hemp this spring, university officials said in a statement.
Lindsey said the fact SIU sought and received federal approval to grow hemp shows the state is to lead on the issue.
“They’re not waiting for other states to kind of go there and then learn from lessons elsewhere,” Lindsey said. “They want to get involved in the research aspects of this right now.”
The initiative isn’t just about hemp production and cultivation. SIU hopes to provide research on medical marijuana as well. The school has an eye on working with Illinois’ licensed growers to study the bioactive components and biological effects of different strains of cannabis.
“Medical marijuana is in its infancy, and with our expertise at SIU, we could help a lot in terms of quality control and standardization,” said Aldwin Anterola, associate professor of plant biology.
Lindsey said having such the initiative as a whole could help dispel myths about cannabis.
“I’m eager to see what Illinois does with this and what their contributions are going to be to the policies, to the science,” Lindsey said.