Illinois Industrial Hemp Bill Progressing

Industrial hemp in Illinois
Image: rexmedlen

A bill seeking to establish an expanded industrial hemp sector in Illinois is a step closer to being signed off after the state’s House voted in favour of it last week, 106-3.

Back in March  we reported on Senate Bill 2298, which would see expansion of cultivation of hemp, currently only permitted for universities and the Department of Agriculture, and it  being struck from the state’s noxious weeds list.

The bill has seen increasing support since March and dozens of senators and representatives are now listed as co-sponsors.

“Illinois has some of the best farmland in the Midwest with more than 80 percent of our land use tied to agriculture,” said Senate supporter and sponsor, Toi Hutchison. “I am proud to sponsor this proposal that would enable farmers to finally have the chance to grow and produce a product that is already available in our stores.”

The bill is now back in the hands of the Senate, which previously approved it. The House added an amendment that seeks to protect employees of the Department of Agriculture from criminal or civil penalties for actions they take under the Act, assuming the actions are within the scope of their employment. This change requires a concurrence vote from the Senate.

As well as a slew of senators and representatives, the Illinois Farm Bureau is backing the bill, stating it supports legislation that would remove industrial hemp from being classified as a controlled substance and promote production, processing, commercialization and utilization of the crop.

So, it seems it may not be too long before Senate Bill 2298 is sent to Governor Bruce Rauner for his signature. It’s not clear what Governor Rauner’s attitude is towards hemp, but he’s certainly not a fan of legalising its intoxicating cousin, marijuana.

However, back in 2016, he signed a law decriminalizing possession of a small amount of marijuana. He also implemented a medical marijuana pilot program in the state in 2015 – so he’s definitely not anti-cannabis per se.

In related news, earlier this month a bill seeking to allow patients to use medical cannabis as an alternative to opioid treatment passed the Illinois House and Senate. That bill is still working its way through, with a final action deadline extended to May 31.