Illinois was once a top producer of industrial hemp in this country. That is, until federal law lumped this plant together with its psychoactive relative, marijuana, and began regulating hemp as a Schedule I drug. Industrial hemp has at least 25,000 different uses, a handful of which include alternative plastic, a concrete product called hempcrete, food, beauty products, rope, and supplements. Hemp offers environmental benefits as a crop, requiring minimal chemical input, removing toxins from soil, and potentially helping farmers suppress and combat herbicide-resistant “super weeds.”
While the 2014 Farm Bill allowed states to create hemp programs, the focus of this policy change was on research, and the bill did not change hemp’s status as a Schedule I drug. Research is broadly defined to allow commercial activity, but hemp is still unnecessarily restricted by its misclassification as a drug. A bill introduced this year in Congress, the Industrial Hemp Farming Act of 2017, would remedy this by removing industrial hemp from drug scheduling.
Recognizing the benefit that industrial hemp could bring to Illinois farmers and rural communities, Congressman Rodney Davis, a member of the Committee on Agriculture whose district covers part of Central Illinois, is now the first Illinois member of Congress to cosponsor the bill. Illinois Stewardship Alliance spoke with Rep. Davis’s office about the bill several weeks ago and we were delighted to learn that he cosponsored the bill following that conversation.
Illinois Stewardship Alliance partnered with the Illinois Farmers Union and the Illinois Environmental Council to work on a state hemp bill earlier this year. While the bill did not pass before the end of the state legislative session, the federal Industrial Hemp Farming Act would be an even bigger win for farmers! We thank Rep. Davis for helping the country move towards that goal.
What you can do: find your member of Congress here and call their office. Ask them to cosponsor H.R.3530 and tell them why it matters to you.