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.
It’s an idea that’s been proposed for years at the statehouse, though previously it failed to gain enough support. Despite its little-to-no THC levels - the mind-altering component in cannabis - the stigma associated with marijuana was a hurdle.
State Representative Tim Butler, a Republican from Springfield, said this legislation makes a clear distinction about the purpose of the crop.
“This adds to the diversification for farmers," said Butler. "It allows them to do other things other than corn and beans and to find another source of revenue to come in the door.”
Democratic state Representative Jerry Costello from Smithton said he voted against the idea in the past, but he's changed his mind.
“I voted no because it was federally illegal," said Costello. "Since the past farm bill was passed last year, it’s now legal in the United States. If you look at what hemp is used for, it’s used for a number of products.”
The measure has passed both chambers of the state's General Assembly. If the governor signs it - the Illinois Department of Agriculture has 120 days to set rules for the program. The Illinois Farm Bureau said they support the idea, as well.