The Illinois State Senate approved legislation last Thursday that will authorize the University of Illinois and Southern Illinois University to plant and study industrial hemp.
Senate Bill 1397 passed by a vote of 49-9. The bill, now in the Illinois House of Representatives (House Bill 3559), is currently in the Rules Committee.
The bill requires the two universities to, "[O]btain all federal and state permits needed to legally grow industrial hemp for fiber or seed production before importing any non-sterilized industrial hemp seeds capable of germination into the state." The universities will then report their findings and recommendations to the General Assembly by Jan. 1, 2002.
Earlier this week, drug czar Barry McCaffrey attacked the legislation claiming it "may be a stalking horse for the legalization of marijuana."
One of the House Bill's co-sponsors, Rep. Judy Erwin (D-Chicago), fired back at McCaffrey's flawed reasoning.
"No one is suggesting the legalization of marijuana," Erwin said. "It really obfuscates the purpose of this argument, which is to improve a seriously failing farm economy."
Last December, Hawaii was the first state to legally plant industrial hemp. Earlier in the year North Dakota and Minnesota also approved legislation to allow for the cultivation of industrial hemp. Since then, other states, such as California, have approved legislation to explore the possibilities of growing industrial hemp.
For more information, please contact Rep. Judy Erwin at (217) 782-8404 or Rep. I. Ronald Lawfer (co-sponsor) (R-Stockton) at (217)782-8186.