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Illinois House Kills Hemp Bill

Submitted by Phillip Smith on (Issue #678)
Drug War Issues
Politics & Advocacy

A bill that would have allowed Illinois farmers to get permits to grow hemp was stopped dead in a House vote last Thursday. The bill, House Bill 1383, was defeated 28-83.

Industrial hemp in France produces oils and fiber. (Image via
The bill was sponsored by Rep. Ken Dunkin (D-Chicago), who emphasized hemp's environmental advantages and broad range of potential uses. "This is part of the new green movement across the nation," Dunkin said. "This will put Illinois ahead of most states."

The measure also had the support of the Illinois Farm Bureau. "There's a potential it [industrial hemp] could be a viable specialty crop," said bureau director of state legislation Kevin Semlow. "It was grown in the state up until the '40s."

Although marijuana and hemp were criminalized federally in the 1930s, farmers were encouraged to grow hemp by the federal government during World War II, when other sources of fiber were in short supply. But after the "Hemp for Victory" interregnum, hemp prohibition returned.

While hemp and hemp products may now be imported into the US, it remains illegal for farmers to grow the low-THC cannabis cultivar. Illinois imports $30 million worth of hemp a year, Dunkin said.

Opponents cited the federal government's classification of hemp as a controlled substance. A state law allowing for hemp production would put the state in conflict with the federal law, they argued.

"I would suggest a resolution asking the federal government to move it from Schedule One to Schedule Two so we could do more things, make the kind of distinctions between the plants (hemp and cannabis)," said Rep. Mike Fortner (R-West Chicago).

Downstate Republicans cited law enforcement opposition to the measure. "I had a call from [Sangamon County] Sheriff Williamson, and he asked me not to support it," said Rep. Rich Brauer (R-Petersburg).

Sangamon County Chief Deputy Jack Campbell told The State Register-Journal that legalized hemp production would make it harder to find illicit marijuana. "Like with medical marijuana, there will probably be abuse with it, and it would probably be a nightmare to control," Campbell said.

Despite the repeated insistence by US law enforcement spokespersons that hemp production would provide cover for illicit marijuana production (and their implicit acknowledgement that they are unable to tell the difference), that has not proven to be the case in Canada and Western Europe, which have legalized hemp production without any problems of that nature.

According to the industry group Vote Hemp, nine states have passed legislation removing barriers to hemp cultivation and eight more have passed resolutions supporting legalized hemp production.

Permission to Reprint: This content is licensed under a modified Creative Commons Attribution license. Content of a purely educational nature in Drug War Chronicle appear courtesy of DRCNet Foundation, unless otherwise noted.


The Illinois House of Representatives have proven that they are incapable of passing a balanced budget. Of their duties, this is at the top, and yet they are not able to do it. They are also not capable of being progressive in the sense that they take their orders from the federal US government. That is essentially what they are saying when they bring up the Controlled Substances Act.

Hemp is not marijuana. Wine consumption is illegal for minors while grape juice is not. They are both made from grapes. In the case of hemp vs marijuana, you can not pass one off for the other. The real problem with the Illinois House of Representative is that they were clearly uninformed on the subject prior to voting.

Had the Illinois House of Representatives realized that their vote would have not allowed Illinois farmers to grow hemp without a DEA permit, ... that the legislation was more of a protest to the US federal government, then perhaps more would have voted for it.

Hemp is legal in North Dakota, however, farmers must obtain a permit from DEA -- and a few have tried and failed. The real irony is that hemp is illegal due to its relation to marijuana, and the DEA does provide permits for growing marijuana such as the University of Mississippi's medicinal marijuana program and Dr Paul Mahlberg at Indiana University (Department of Biology). There are states that allow for patients to grow marijuana (California, Oregon, Washington), yet not a single permit to allow for non-drug, no-THC hemp!

Fri, 04/01/2011 - 5:20pm Permalink
old vet (not verified)

a 5 year old child could be taught to tell the difference between marijuana and hemp . ok why don't we start by hiring people with a iq over that of a 5 year old child.i never will understand why we hire idiots for such a important job as policeing .maybe if we did we could cut some of the crimnal element out of our police forces .this has got to end the hiring of idiots and handing them guns.

Sat, 04/02/2011 - 2:10pm Permalink
Moonrider (not verified)

In reply to by old vet (not verified)

As for the intelligence of cops, they will be denied admission to the ranks of law enforcement if their IQ is too high, the statists want the cops to be dumber than most of society. Smart cops might question the things they are asked (required) to do.

Sun, 04/03/2011 - 4:08am Permalink
MS (not verified)

I suppose if you had your fingers in your ears and your eyes closed, it would be pretty difficult to tell hemp apart from "marijuana."

Mon, 04/04/2011 - 2:50am Permalink
maxwood (not verified)

1. For the protection of both officers and citizens via avoidance of disputes, it now is time for someone with exquisite knowledge of the subject and a good camera to take a variety of pictures illustrating the differences to look for between proposed industrial and inspirational types of herb, and publish this on line, as brochure, etc. so opponents may be satisfied that no "nightmare" will result.

On the other hand it would of course be good if inspirational hemp also is wider distributed because it will perk up the imagination of workers who will then invent more and better ways to use industrial hemp.

2. In my view, WATER may be the crisis of the next century; the major custodians and guarantors of fresh water are the large land TREE forests; a top-grade precursor crop for tree plantings is reported to be HEMP-- and industrial will do; a good precursor crop for cannabis is said to be CORN presently plentiful on Iowa, Illinois, Indiana lands that in many cases used to be in trees until about 200 years ago.  Corn --> Hemp --> Trees --> Water.

3. In the meantime the best way to promote industrial hemp may be the dibblestick and the brownspliff.

Roll potting soil and pot seed in a big brown paper napkin or two; use stick to make a hole among roots of a remote neglected hedge or bush no one looks at; plant spliff sticking up; it will catch regular water drippage down from the bush above, meanwhile protected from being seen before it matures and bears seed which will produce de facto plants everywhere a season later, followed by Realistic ratification by legislatures.

Thu, 04/07/2011 - 9:30pm Permalink

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