Illinois lawmakers pass bill legalizing industrial hemp

Illinois lawmakers pass bill legalizing industrial hemp

While state law currently allows for the cultivation of hemp to be overseen by some government bodies, the Industrial Hemp Act would make legal the commercial production of hemp.

A bill that would lift prohibitions on the production of industrial hemp is on its way to Gov. Bruce Rauner’s desk. The measure, Senate Bill 2298, cleared both the Illinois House and Senate with near-unanimous support.

Filed Jan. 10 by state Sen. Toi Hutchinson, D-Chicago Heights, SB 2298 would create the Industrial Hemp Act. The bill would establish a legal framework within which Illinoisans could grow, cultivate and process industrial hemp, subject to licensure by the Illinois Department of Agriculture, or DOA. It would also amend both the Noxious Weed Act and Cannabis Control Act, removing hemp from both legal categories as recognized by state law.

According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, 16 states allow industrial hemp production for commercial purposes. Industrial hemp fibers could be used for products ranging from building materials and textiles to cosmetics and health food, for example, through processes that reduce safety and environmental hazards.

Industrial hemp has remained controversial for containing tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC. But the minimal THC presence in industrial hemp renders the substance virtually incapable of causing intoxication.

Hutchinson previously ventured to legalize the industrial production of hemp in 2017 with Senate Bill 1294. The measure passed the Senate unanimously but died in the House Rules Committee.

Gov. Bruce Rauner signed a measure July 2016 decriminalizing the possession of small amounts of marijuana. But it remains to be seen whether SB 2298 will plant the seeds for the growth of industrial hemp harvests.

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