HTTP/1.0 200 OK Content-Type: text/html House Sends Hemp Research Bill To Governor
Pubdate: Wed, 10 Jan 2001
Source: Peoria Journal Star (IL)
Copyright: 2001sPeoria Journal Star
Contact:  1 News Plaza, Peoria, IL. U.S.A. 61643
Author: ADRIANA COLINDRES, Copley News Service


SPRINGFIELD - The Illinois House on Tuesday sent to Gov. George Ryan a 
proposal to authorize two state universities to research industrial hemp, a 
biological relative of marijuana.

The study is intended to shed light on whether industrial hemp could be a 
viable cash crop for Illinois farmers. Low prices for corn and other crops 
have caused farmers to struggle financially.

The House voted 67-47 for Senate Bill 1397, which the Senate approved last 
spring. In November, the same legislation failed to attract enough yes 
votes in the House. A parliamentary maneuver permitted Tuesday's revote.

A Ryan spokesman said the governor hasn't decided whether he'll sign Senate 
Bill 1397 into law.

Even if Ryan signs the measure, hurdles remain before the University of 
Illinois and Southern Illinois University could start growing and studying 
hemp. For instance, the universities would have to obtain permits from the 
federal government.

In addition, the bill doesn't include money to fund the universities' study.

State Rep. Ron Lawfer, R- Stockton, and Sen. Evelyn Bowles, D-Edwardsville, 
the bill's main sponsors, estimate the study will cost about $800,000 to $1 

Opponents to the legislation have said it sends the wrong message, 
especially to young people, about drug use. Opponents also have said the 
Illinois legislation - and simi lar initiatives in other states - could 
lead to the legalization of marijuana.

Priss Parmenter, president of the Naperville-based Illinois Drug Education 
Alliance, said she was disappointed with the House vote. IDEA intends to 
urge the governor to veto the bill and try to block funding for the study, 
she said.

Supporters of the proposal say they're merely trying to help farmers, and 
that they aren't sending out a pro-drug message.

"I think we need another value-added crop for agriculture in Illinois," 
said Bowles, who wore a beige sweater made of hemp. "It's warm, it's nice, 
it's very comfortable."

Industrial hemp was grown in Illinois during World War II, but it may not 
be grown legally in the United States now. It is, however, legal to buy 
products made with hemp seeds or hemp fibers.

Lawfer said the universities will grow industrial hemp in a secure, 
controlled environment - complete with security fences and video cameras.
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