The business association also hopes to hold its first jobs fair at Oakton in October, with cannabis and related companies looking to recruit new workers.
Various aspects of the cannabis business are taught by instructors with expertise in their fields. Attorney and pharmacist Erica Lindsay teaches legal matters, such as how patients and workers can qualify legally for medical dispensaries.
Dr. Sarah Mann, who said she has certified about 200 patients for medical cannabis at her clinic in Barrington, teaches the medical effects of cannabis. During class last week, while some students tried to keep up with her description of bone cells known as osteoblasts and osteoclasts, Mann assured them that such Latin terms merely name a process they probably already understand.
Mann explained how the active ingredients in cannabis such as THC, which gets users high, and CBD, marketed for anti-inflammatory effects, can help treat various medical conditions. Research has shown cannabis can be effective to treat nausea, pain, muscle stiffness and epilepsy.
While the full effects of the drug remain unknown pending more research, Mann cautioned that pot is not a cure-all. For instance, it may help reduce pain for cancer patients, she said, and has shown anti-cancer properties in the lab, but has not been proved to reverse the disease.
"Cannabis reduces effectiveness of chemotherapy," Mann said. "It is very unethical to give such questionable treatment when there's a known more effective treatment."
One instructor with experience in the field, Steve Fix, who works at GreenGate dispensary in Chicago's Rogers Park community, explained what it's like dealing with patients with serious, even fatal illnesses.
"It's an intake process, just like with any doctor," Fix said. "You discuss what's going on, if they're in pain, if they have anxiety, what product would best manage that. We want people who leave our program to realistically speak to different types of illness and weigh that against different types of cannabis."
Tuition for the course is $1,635 for Illinois residents, Oakton officials said.
Some budtenders, as dispensary workers sometimes are called, had no previous experience working with sick people, so the course is structured to build empathy and understanding of conditions ranging from Parkinson's to migraines.