Amber Johnson

Oakton student, Amber Johnson, in the Cannabis Lab.
As the cannabis industry continues to evolve in Illinois, Amber Johnson is evolving her skills with it. She’s pursuing all three Cannabis Studies certificates at Oakton, with the goal to one day start a propagation center or become a craft grower. With the support and knowledge she’s gaining from the programs, Amber is navigating a brand new, notoriously complicated industry with confidence.

Turning a passion into her career
“There are many pathways into the cannabis industry. My background has been in gardening, so I decided to go for the cultivation certificate. I was already growing cannabis for a while, and I wanted to get more technique and in-depth knowledge. I started to grow when the state went legal. My sister and I got patient cards. She has arthritis and I was able to become her caretaker and transfer her growing rights to my card. My interest in cannabis grew from there. This is the first time that I’ve gotten to take a class to learn about a hobby, and I’ll be gaining professional certification for it. I’d be growing cannabis no matter what; I came to Oakton and it really opened my mind to having a career in cultivation.”

A one-of-a-kind lab
“Seeing the cultivation lab [Oakton's PharmaCann Cannabis Cultivation Lab] for the first time, honestly, it was a little unbelievable. It’s set up like a mini cultivation center. They’re literally teaching us everything for the computer systems. Everything has to be connected and equalized and all the components have to match for the health of the plants. Everything is automated to reduce labor—it’s simple and clean and exactly what it looks like in real life.”

Learning the skills—and the industry
“I have a new job at a cultivation center. It can be a little intimidating during the hiring process. You have to do biometrics and live scans and turn in an application to the Department of Agriculture so they can approve you for an agent card. The whole process takes about a month. It’s so brand new, I’m sure that process will get better. But the professors helped me figure it out and encouraged me to stick with it.”

Forging her own path
“I would like to open up a propagation center. That’s the first part of the cannabis business: You have to start with the seed and the clones. There are not a lot of businesses that only focus on seeds and clones as a source. Oakton is preparing me for a new and untested industry. They give you the knowledge of cannabis and how to grow the plant. But they also connect you to employment and networking opportunities. They teach you about the regulations and the economy and the players. I’m learning to be a grower and an entrepreneur.”