Next steps for hemp in the state of Illinois

Legalizing industrial help in Illinois

ILLINOIS (KFVS) - The state of Illinois is gearing up for the legalization of hemp.

The federal government passed the 2018 Farm Bill, which no longer makes hemp a schedule one drug.

The 45-day First Notice public comment period on proposed industrial hemp regulations is now closed according to the Illinois Dept. of Agriculture. That public comment period ended at close of business yesterday, February 11, 2019.

The announcement for applications will come soon.

In August of 2018, Governor Bruce Rauner signed the Industrial Hemp Act. According to the Illinois Department of Agriculture, the state is still in the “rule writing process” to get the law enacted.

“Illinois is trying to meld its rules with the federal farm bill guidelines to make sure we are consistent with those and not be overly burdensome," said Jeff Cox, the bureau chief of medicinal plants at DOA.

A grocery story in Carbondale, Neighborhood Co-Op, sells CBD oil for its customers. CBD, which stands for cannabidiol, is from the Cannabis Sativa plant called Hemp.

Buck Smith of Makanda, Illinois is a customer at the store. He pays more than $100 for the CBD oil. Smith uses the oil for his severe spinal stenosis. He said you can’t put a price on relief.

“It was to the point where I couldn’t work, I couldn’t walk, couldn’t sleep, I mean it was miserable pain,” said Smith. “Within ten days, my pain was gone, everything was back to normal.”

The mission for Co-Op grocer is to buy local, but their CBD oil is from Wisconsin or Vermont because Illinois is not able to grow it yet.

“I would very much like it if we could grow hemp here in Illinois and have produced into products we can sell here at the store because that would be supporting our local economy,” said Francis Murphy, the general manager of Neighborhood Co-Op.

According to DOA, they are working to sync up Illinois’s state guidelines with new federal ones.

“It’s been frustrating because we see all these others states growing hemp and our state is not really being a leader by any means whatsoever,” said President of Global Hemp, Inc. in Peoria, Eric Pollitt.

Pollitt said he wants to “fast-track” the laws so farmers can legally put a seed in the ground by Summer 2019, similar to the process in the neighboring state of Kentucky.

“Illinois has nothing to lose in this whatsoever at all...some times there’s a first-mover advantage, and Kentuck and Colorado certainly have that. Naturally, at the end of the day Illinois is where hemp was made to be grown,” Pollitt said.

Dr. Aldwin Anterola is in charge of the Hemp Program at the Southern Illinois University. He said he would also like to see this process fast tracked, but more so for public safety concern.

“Is it safe actually? And, how do we know? We don’t know," Dr. Anterola said. “This thing that you are buying is not FDA approved, people are manufacturing this...companies are manufacturing and they do not have to answer to anybody because they don’t.”

CBD user Smith said, while the CBD may work for his ailments, he, too, would like to see more research done.

“That’s the only thing I’d like to see is research to know exactly what kind of dosage should I be taking? How much? How often? And what form,” Smith questioned.

Southern Illinois University Carbondale is responding to changing laws and societal views with a new initiative on industrial hemp and medical marijuana.

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