DU QUOIN, IL (KFVS) - Governor Rauner signed the Industrial Hemp Act, Senate Bill 2298 on Saturday, Aug. 25 at the Du Quoin State Fair.
The bill adds Illinois to a growing number of states that permit growth of cannabis cultivated for non-drug uses such as paper- and fabric-making, biodegradable plastics, construction materials and health food.
The governor also signed House Bill 5749 which will ease weight-limit restrictions on state highways during harvest time, improve the competitive outlook for Illinois farmers and agricultural commodities haulers.
Both bills will enhance one of the state's leading industries: farming.
"Legalizing the farming of industrial hemp just makes good sense," Rauner said. "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. This new state licensure program begins that process."
"The Illinois Farm Bureau appreciates Gov. Rauner signing SB 2298 which legalizes the growing of industrial hemp by Illinois farmers," said Richard Guebert Jr., president, Illinois Farm Bureau. "Illinois Farm Bureau policy, developed by our grassroots members, has long supported the production, processing, and utilization of industrial hemp. Illinois farmers will now have new opportunities to diversify their farms by growing this versatile crop."
The Industrial Hemp Act, effective immediately, creates a state licensure program through the Department of Agriculture that enables those who desire to grow the crop to do so. The state Department of Agriculture shall establish rules for THC-level testing of industrial hemp crops.
HB 5749 allows haulers to seek and obtain annual permits from the Illinois Department of Transportation and local authorities to exceed gross axle and gross vehicle weight limits by no more than 10 percent.
"Neighboring states allow higher weight limits during harvest time without the requirement of having a harvest emergency declared," Rauner said. "Illinois has an agriculture workforce that is second to none, and this legislation will help them to more efficiently get their crops to market."
HB 5749 takes effect in July 2019.