Hemp

Susan Stephens

While politicians debate the merits of legalizing recreational cannabis, many Illinois farmers are more interested in its biological cousin, hemp. Last year, Illinois lawmakers made it legal to grow hemp. Now the race is on for the state to put rules in place in time for the planting season. In this week's Friday Forum, WNIJ's Susan Stephens talks with some of the people pushing to get the hemp industry off the ground.

Susan Stephens / WNIJ

The Illinois Department of Agriculture is currently drafting rules for the historic Industrial Hemp Farming Act that passed this summer. This will allow those with a permit to grow, cultivate, or process the non-drug, agricultural varieties of cannabis. 

 

LUKE RUNYON/HARVEST PUBLIC MEDIA

Illinois lawmakers approved legisltation that would allow farmers to grow industrial hemp. Hemp is derived from the cannabis plant, but it has a non-drug use. It can create bio-degradable building materials, paper, textiles and more.

DYLAN LOVAN / AP

Making it legal to raise industrial hemp has been a topic of discussion in Illinois for years. Wisconsin is the most recent state to allow farmers to grow it. Will Illinois be next?

Back in 2014, the federal farm bill authorized states to grow hemp for research purposes. And effective in 2015, Illinois allowed specific state universities to do so.

But it’s still not legal for farmers to grow, whether it’s for research or another cash crop, and it’s not for a lack of trying by the Illinois Farm Bureau, said IFB's Bill Bodine.

Cass Herrington / Peoria Public Radio

New legislation would amend the Illinois Noxious Weed Law to allow farmers to grow and sell industrial hemp. 

The plant is a strain of cannabis that doesn’t have psychoactive properties. Peoria-based Global Hemp is developing potential uses for fiber that can be chemically “cottonized” for a softer product. President Eric Pollitt is marketing the product to higher-end companies.

An Illinois legislative package aims to get more local farmers and small businesses into the marketplace.

It streamlines farmers market regulations, which currently vary by county.  The measure also expands the sale of homemade foods and makes it easier for producers to sell raw milk.  State Representative Sonya Harper of Chicago supports the measure.