Illinois Senate passes House Bill 5085 for Industrial Hemp research

Today, Monday May 19, 2014 the Illinois Senate voted 51-0 to pass House Bill 5085, sending the bill to the House for concurrence.  This bill would allow Illinois colleges and universities to conduct research on industrial hemp and would bring Illinois law in line with recent changes to federal policy on hemp.

“Illinois has a long history of being a producer of industrial hemp and it is time we get back to our roots and begin the process of growing this important agricultural product throughout our state once again.  Hundreds of millions of dollars of hemp products are sold annually throughout the US and we need to bring the production of the plant back to Illinois instead of out-sourcing it to China, Europe and Canada,” said Ali Nagib, Assistant Director of Illinois NORML

Currently 12 states have laws which make the production of industrial hemp legal, but with limited exception none of those states have active cultivation of the plant due to federal laws prohibiting such production.  HB5085 does not go as far as the laws in those states and is limited to the research that was recently allowed by changes in federal law.  Industrial hemp is defined by the bill as a cannabis plant with no more than 0.3% THC, the main psychoactive component in cannabis.

Illinois NORML Executive Director Dan Linn added, “When the very first American colonies were founded, not only was hemp accepted as a form of tax payment, its cultivation was actually required by law.  From those early days of our country to the “Hemp for Victory” program during World War II, industrial hemp has played a vital role in our nation’s agricultural history and this bill is the first step in restoring hemp to its rightful place as a valuable agricultural commodity in Illinois.”

In February, President Obama signed the Agriculture Act of 2014 which includes Section 7606 dealing with industrial hemp.  This section changes a long-standing policy of the federal government regarding hemp.  Previously, hemp was classified along with other versions of the cannabis plant whose cultivation was prohibited and all research on hemp was strictly controlled.  The new provision allows for states determine whether commercial production of hemp would be beneficial for American farmers and businesses by authorizing their colleges and universities to conduct research on the plant.

Illinois NORML would like to give our sincere thanks to Representative David Leitch (R-Peoria) and Senator Darin LaHood (R-Peoria) for their sponsorship of the bill and to all the other supporters for helping to get this bill passed.

-Dan Linn and Ali Nagib

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