NORMAL, Ill. (WMBD) — Heartland Community College now has a 12 credit-hour program for cannabis cultivation. Provost Rick Pearce said the purpose of the program is to prepare people for an entry-level position in cannabis production or distribution.

“Last year there were over 170 job postings in the cannabis industry that required some knowledge of either cultivation or distribution just within a 60 mile radius of our college. So there’s quite a bit of demand and we’re trying to beat that demand,” he said.

Students will study cannabis cultivation along with transportation of the product and distribution which ties into dispensary operations. Pearce believes this program will help with social equity in the cannabis industry.

“We have a program, Workforce Equity Initiative Grant, that we received from the state. We believe this will be a program that fits well into that,” said Pearce. “That program, that grant funded program is designed to reach out to underrepresented students. And it has actually helped us to increase our minority enrollment by about 30%.”

Pearce said there are are some concerns while working to improve social equity.

“We’re not quite sure how well received previously incarcerated would be in this industry. And of course we’re trying to also reach out to that population to help them with education and get re-established. So we’ll have to see how that works,” said Pearce.

Pearce said Heartland is currently looking for an instructor and hope to introduce the program by next spring semester.