Lawmakers hope to finalize rules to grow industrial hemp in Illinois by June


    When the rules are finalized and sorted out, Illinois must find and create a market for the crop. Something officials say should come with time, but like the plant itself, the market will have to grow from the ground up.

    Industrial hemp could soon be a large cash cow for farmers in the Land of Lincoln.

    Hemp is a growing market across the United States right now.

    In fact, Illinois will soon welcome the growth of the crop, after the rules are completed by the Illinois Department of Ag.

    A federal policy change last year is making it possible for states across the nation to cultivate industrial hemp.

    That’s according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

    Hemp was removed from the Controlled Substance Act in the 2018 Farm Bill. and is now under consideration as an Agriculture Product.

    "We want to look at a couple of different commodities we can get from that crop. Everyone is interested in CBD oil production or cannabidiol, but we also want to look at the crop for production of fiber or seed," said Karla Gage, Assistant Professor of Weed Science and Plant Biology at Southern Illinois University Carbondale.

    Some would compare the hemp weed to a cannabis plant, but don't let the similarities fool you.

    "The plants look alike, but they are very different because industrial hemp contains less than point-three percent of THC. So that means it doesn't have any psychoactive of medicinal cannabis. So, you are not going to feel any effects from this,” Gage said.

    According to NCSL at least six states enacted legislation on hemp in 2018, including Missouri.

    "You cannot grow industrial hemp without a license from the Illinois Department of Agriculture, yet the Illinois Department of Agriculture has not completed the rules on how to get a license," said Bill Bodine, Associate Director for State Legislation at the Illinois Farm Bureau.

    Bodine said there's a lot of work to be done, but is hopeful to get the licensing up and going for the 2019 growing season.

    "We do expect that farmers will have to provide information on where they will be growing the crop, some information on their history, possibly pass a background check, there are some requirements that have to be met under the Federal Farm Bill,” Bodine said.

    When the rules are finalized and sorted out, Illinois must find and create a market for the crop. Something officials say should come with time, but like the plant itself, the market will have to grow from the ground up.

    Bodine says they would like to have the rules to apply for an industrial hemp license finished by June 1.

    Farmers say that’s the prime time to start growing the hemp crop.

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