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SOMERS — As cannabidiol (CBD) products become legal in Wisconsin, and other hemp, cannabis and marijuana businesses become legal in the United States, questions have been raised about the legality and morality of such businesses along with the health effects of the products.

But the science behind the hemp and cannabis products has not gotten as much attention in Wisconsin — that’s where the University of Wisconsin-Parkside comes in.

On Saturday, Parkside hosted the “Growing Your Canna-Business in Wisconsin” seminar which was attended by about 100 people from various age ranges and backgrounds.

Parkside plans to be one of the first universities in Wisconsin with a lab to test a product or plant for its tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) potency.

Through a partnership with Shimadzu Corp., a Japanese company that provided the equipment, Parkside will be able to help local businesses test their products not only for the amount of THC, but also what pesticides, heavy metals and other chemicals are in their plants and products.

The new equipment is located in the SC Johnson Integrated Science Laboratory at Parkside.

Along with the lab, Parkside hopes in the fall to offer chemistry majors the option of choosing “natural science” as their concentration.

Parkside Chancellor Debbie Ford said the university has been thinking about adding the concentration for several months, and needs the Faculty Senate to approve it before it can be offered in the fall.

Ford said Parkside can help those in the cannabis industry understand what exactly is in their products and materials.

“We are a demonstration site for Shimadzu, so they can bring in clients that want to either purchase the equipment or want to have testing done for their particular business; we can partner with them to do that,” Ford said, adding that the students will be the ones doing the testing and demonstrating how the equipment works.

Emmanuel Otu, dean of the College of Natural Heath and Sciences, helped bring both the lab and the new concentration to the university.

Otu said the natural science concentration was designed with the whole goal of answering the question: “How do farmers know they have a good product?”

“Are you really sure that what you’re consuming is safe?” Otu said. “And that was the most important thing that motivated us at Parkside to be able to (establish the lab), because we want to make sure that the products that are out there are safe.”

Lori Allen, chemistry professor at Parkside, said students will be getting hands -on experience in a certified lab, and the university could provide lawmakers with the information they need on future policy.

“(The students are) going to become sound scientists,” Allen said. “And it isn’t a black-and-white formula, it isn’t ‘and here’s the answer.’ It is a process and so we’re going to be engaging in that process.”

Allen hopes the new lab will help students contribute to this growing industry.

“UW-Parkside seeks to be the resource for the community,” Allen said.

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Ricardo Torres covers federal, state and Racine County politics along with the Village of Mount Pleasant. He bleeds Wisconsin sports teams.

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