FILE - Industrial hemp

Illinois farmers are one step closer to growing hemp. The Illinois Department of Agriculture released the proposed regulations for growing industrial hemp on Dec. 28, 2018. Although Governor Bruce Rauner signed the Industrial Hemp Act in August, planting was delayed pending regulations.

Industrial hemp is used for CBD oil, food, clothing fiber and food, according to Liz Rupel, the policy organizer at Illinois Stewardship Alliance.

“We are pretty pleased with what the Department of Agriculture produced,” Rupel said. “This is very inclusive for smaller farmers, too.”

The proposed regulations require farmers to obtain a license to farm industrial hemp. They must also have one-quarter acre of land for outdoor farming or 500 square feet for indoor farming. The regulations cap THC content of any industrial hemp crop at 0.3 percent.

Although it has similar properties to marijuana, industrial hemp lacks the psychological effects of cannabis.

“It’s marijuana’s cousin that got a bad name,” Rupel said. “It has similar properties but it doesn’t have that psychoactive effect.”

The release of the proposed regulations kickstarts a 45-day comment period, after which the Joint Committee on Administrative Rules will finalize and approve the regulations. The Illinois Department of Agriculture will begin accepting applications for licenses after the approval.

Rupel expressed concern about the comment period, as well as the 90-day waiting period after an application is submitted.

“Farmers would have to put in their application in exactly in pretty much a month, on February 1,” Rupel said. “We are crossing our fingers that we can make that happen, but we are also looking at the possibility the growing season might be delayed. We hope that it is a speedy process, but it could be delayed just due to the comment period that need to occur and getting the applications out in time.”

Rupel said there might be additional changes necessary to bring state rules in line with federal regulations.

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