General Assembly may see effort to legalize industrial hemp, IFB policy would support

Bills have been considered before, but the only one to be approved in Illinois was a 2015 action to authorize university research production.

By Kay Shipman

IL State Capitol 3_11 03

Legislative efforts to legalize farm production of industrial hemp may resurface in the Illinois Capitol. Although such efforts are not an Illinois Farm Bureau initiative, IFB long-standing policy supports the legalization of industrial hemp, said Bill Bodine, IFB associate director of state legislation.

Bodine noted IFB supported 2015 legislation authorizing the state’s universities offering four-year degrees in agricultural science to grow industrial hemp for research purposes and supported 2017 legislation legalizing farm production of industrial hemp.

“Legalizing industrial hemp production would allow some Illinois farmers to diversify their production by adding a new crop,” Bodine said. “Because farmers are not currently allowed to grow industrial hemp, it will take time to grow industrial hemp production and for market development. Legalizing industrial hemp production may provide new market opportunities for farmers and economic growth for the state.”

Related: Illinois General Assembly prepares for chess game involving national census, 2022 elections. Read more here.

Bodine stressed industrial hemp has specific characteristics, especially a THC (Tetrahydrocannabinoids or intoxicating ingredient) concentration of 0.3 or less percent on a dry weight basis. In industrial hemp, the THC level is extremely low and prevents people who smoke or eat the plant from becoming intoxicated.

During the past two decades, bills to legalize industrial hemp have been introduced occasionally in the General Assembly as well as Congress, according to Bodine. However, Illinois legislators passed only the 2015 bill authorizing university research production, he noted.

A 2014 farm bill provision allowed state ag departments or universities to grow or cultivate industrial hemp for research. While Illinois law allows the state’s ag universities to conduct such production and research, other states authorized their ag departments to allow farmers to grow industrial hemp as a part of a pilot program based on farm bill provisions.

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