Illinois governor approves hemp law aimed at commercial production

Illinois is no longer one of the nation’s largest hemp holdouts after Gov. Bruce Rauner signed a law to allow immediate commercial production, citing activity in nearby states.

The new law contains some of the nation’s strongest language protecting farmers’ ability to make money growing hemp.

Farmers can submit a hemp research plan if federal law requires one, but “the research purpose shall not be construed to limit the commercial sale of industrial hemp.”

Because of the late date, it’s unlikely Illinois farmers have time to bring in an outdoor-grown hemp crop in 2018.

But the law gives the Illinois Department of Agriculture just 120 days to come up with rules and fees for the program, a speedier time frame than in most states.

The Illinois law also:

  • Defines hemp as cannabis with no more than 0.3% THC.
  • Requires the Illinois Department of Agriculture to license processors, not just growers. There are no limits on the number of licenses that may be issued.
  • Allows CBD extraction.
  • Requires all hemp crops to be tested for THC content at least once a year, with the possibility of “additional unannounced inspections.”

At the signing Saturday, Rauner cited commercial hemp activity in neighboring states, including Kentucky and Wisconsin.

“Our farmers should have this option as well,” he said.