Gov. Bruce Rauner on Saturday signed a bill legalizing industrial hemp, adding Illinois to a growing list of states that allow the growth of cannabis for non-drug purposes.
“Legalizing the farming of industrial hemp just makes good sense,” Rauner said in a statement. “Roughly 38 states — including our neighbors in Wisconsin, Kentucky, Indiana, Missouri and Tennessee — have allowed or are considering allowing cultivation of this crop for commercial, research or pilot programs. Our farmers should have this option as well.”
Illinois’ Industrial Hemp Act, which goes into effect immediately, allows for its use in paper, fabric, biodegradable plastics, construction materials and health food, according to the governor’s office.
The state Department of Agriculture will issue licenses to farmers who want to grow it, and regulators will establish rules for THC-level testing of industrial hemp crops.
Hemp, a non-psychoactive form of the cannabis plant that is distinct from marijuana, does not produce any high-like effects and is often used in clothing or food. It was banned nationwide in 1937 for its relation to the marijuana plant, but former President Barack Obama opened the door for states to legalize industrial hemp in 2015.
That removed opposition from Illinois Republicans who had blocked previous attempts to legalize the plant in the state.
The bill passed the state House of Representatives by a 106-3 vote, and the Senate passed it unanimously. Advocates say hemp legalization will create hundreds of jobs and up to $100 million in annual state revenue.
“The production of industrial hemp has broad support among our farmers and rural families, as they know this will add another potentially significant crop that can be grown in our state,” sponsoring state Rep. Tim Butler, R-Springfield, said in a statement. “In the early 20th century, Illinois was a national leader in hemp production and I look forward to us returning to that position.”