In 2014, President Obama signed into law the Farm Bill Agriculture Act of 2014, which allowed state departments and universities to grow industrial hemp. Now, over 30 individual states have passed legislation connected to industrial hemp.
Hemp is a commodity that comes from the cannabis sativa plant. It can be grown as a seed, fiber or other dual-purpose crop. You can find it in just about any product imaginable, and serves a myriad of purposes. In 2016, the industrial hemp industry in the United States recorded around $700 million worth of sales.
Illinois’ neighbors to the north, Wisconsin, passed legislation in November of 2017 that allowed farmers to grow industrial hemp. This bill was widely popular in the state, and passed the legislature unanimously.
Now Illinois farmers are looking to cash in on the crop.
Illinois passed a law in 2014 that allows the possession and production of hemp by licensed growers for commercial and research purposes. In early 2017, Senate Bill 1294, which permits a person to obtain a license to grow, possess, sell, or purchase industrial hemp and hemp products, was introduced by Senator Toi Hutchinson. The bill is currently in the Rules Committee, but has sponsors from both sides of the aisle in each chamber. This demonstrates a bipartisan support rarely found in Springfield these days.
Though there is currently stigma surrounding hemp due to its association with marijuana, the benefits of industrial hemp production cannot be ignored. The potential opportunity to create jobs, generate more revenue, and make the country less dependent on imports from other countries, is significant.