Farmers in Illinois are getting closer to growing industrial hemp. The Department of Agriculture (IDOA) drafted rules for the program which lay out who can grow it, where and how much it will cost.
Growing the new agricultural commodity won’t be afforded to everyone. Those raising the crop need to be approved by the IDOA. They’ll also need to pay more than $1,000 in fees and for mandatory testing to ensure what they’re growing is actually hemp—not marijuana.
Chance Riggins, a crop science professor at the University of Illinois, said hemp and marijuana are going to look very similar.
“There’s no real physical difference in the plant," said Riggins. "There are different growth forms, different cultivars… but in field they basically, look the same, they’re going to smell the same.”
According to the posted rules, hemp grown in Illinois may only contain .3% of tetrahydrocannabinoil (THC), which is the mind-altering component found in pot.
Riggins, who researches plant evolution, said they are the same plant biologically, but that absence of THC makes the difference legally.
“Even though they’re the same plant, same species… hemp has no psychoactive properties," said Riggins. "That is what separates the two."
A 45-day comment period is underway. The proposed rules can then be considered and approved by a state panel which means hemp crops could be planted this spring.