Pubdate: Sat, 07 Apr 2001
Source: The News-Gazette (IL)
Copyright: 2001 The News-Gazette
Author: Kate Clements


SPRINGFIELD - Plans to study industrial hemp at the University of 
Illinois were revived Friday.

The House voted 72-43 to allow the UI to study the plant as a 
possible cash crop.

Gov. George Ryan vetoed a similar bill Feb. 23, saying it "would send 
a mixed message to the youth of our state at a time when marijuana 
use has doubled in our rural areas over the past eight years alone."

State Rep. Ron Lawfer, R-Stockton, said he reworked the bill to 
address the governor's concerns.

The new version of the bill would direct researchers to develop a 
strain of the plant that is completely free of THC, the psychoactive 
chemical in marijuana that gives a high to users.

Typically, industrial hemp has a THC level of .3 percent or lower.

State Rep. Rick Winkel, R-Champaign, voted against the bill in 
January, but supported it Thursday because of the promise to 
eliminate THC entirely.

The new bill also requires the UI to get the money from federal or 
private sources, so no state funds are used for the project, 
addressing another one of Ryan's concerns about the old measure.

Don Briskin, a plant physiology professor at the UI, hopes to head up 
the study. He has said Illinois has an ideal climate for hemp 
production and the crop is lucrative for Canadian farmers.

Illinois State Police dropped their opposition to the bill when a 
provision was included directing Western Illinois University to study 
the impacts on law enforcement of legalizing industrial hemp.

Anti-drug groups such as the Naperville-based Educating Voices still 
oppose the measure, claiming it opens the door to legalized marijuana.

"It would make it extremely difficult to enforce the laws we have on 
the books against marijuana," said Judy Kreamer, the group's 

Someone could plant real marijuana in the middle of an industrial 
hemp field and law enforcement officials might not be able to tell 
the difference, she said.

There are other alternative crops with no drug elements that would be 
better for Illinois farmers, Kreamer said.

State Reps. Bill Mitchell, R-Forsyth, and John Turner, R-Atlanta, 
voted against the bill.

Reps. Tom Berns, R-Urbana; Bill Black, R-Danville; Julie Curry, 
D-Mount Zion; Dale Righter, R-Mattoon; and Dan Rutherford, R-Pontiac, 
joined Winkel in voting for the hemp study.

The Senate approved the old version of the bill and is likely to 
approve the new one. Then it would go to the governor for his 

Ryan is not ready to comment on the new version of the bill, said 
Ryan spokesman Ray Serati.

The UI would have to get permission from the U.S. Drug Enforcement 
Agency before the hemp study could go forward.

Hawaii is the only state to plant a test plot of industrial hemp.
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MAP posted-by: Josh Sutcliffe