Rauner signs bill lifting ban on industrial hemp

Rauner signs bill lifting ban on industrial hemp

The Industrial Hemp Act will plant the seeds for the growth of commercial hemp production across Illinois.

After clearing the General Assembly with nearunanimous support, Gov. Bruce Rauner signed into law Senate Bill 2298, which lifts restrictions on the production of industrial hemp in Illinois, effective immediately.

Industrial hemp fibers can 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.

Filed in January by state Sen. Toi Hutchinson, D-Chicago Heights, SB 2298 creates the Industrial Hemp Act, establishing a legal framework within which Illinoisans can grow, cultivate and process industrial hemp, subject to licensure by the Illinois Department of Agriculture. It also amends both the Noxious Weed Act and Cannabis Control Act, removing hemp from both legal categories as recognized by state law.

Rauner said in a statement that the new law will help Illinois compete with its neighbors. “Roughly 38 states — including our neighbors in Wisconsin, Kentucky, Indiana, Missouri and Tennessee — have allowed or are considering allowing cultivation of this crop for commercial, research or pilot programs,” the governor said. “Our farmers should have this option as well.”

According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, at least 16 states allow industrial hemp production for commercial purposes. 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.

State Rep. Tim Butler, R-Springfield, a chief co-sponsor of SB 2298, praised the bill as a step toward economic growth for the state, according to the Sun-Times. “In the early 20th century, Illinois was a national leader in hemp production,” Butler said, “and I look forward to us returning to that position.”

Gov. Bruce Rauner signed a measure July 2016 decriminalizing the possession of small amounts of marijuana. Another marijuana-related bill – Senate Bill 336 – is currently on Rauner’s desk. That bill, known as the “Alternatives to Opioids Act,” would allow more physicians to offer patients temporary medical cannabis cards in place of opioid prescriptions.

Illinoisans should welcome the Industrial Hemp Act as a small but advantageous step toward growing the state’s economy.

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