Springfield, Illinois — A bill authorizing a study of hemp as a cash crop fell two votes short in the House Tuesday amid fears it would send the wrong message about illicit drug use. Most representatives favored the idea — the vote was 69-45 — but the bill called for it to take effect immediately, so parliamentary rules required 71 votes for passage.
Rep. Ronald Lawfer, R-Stockton, said he will call the bill again in January, before the new Legislature is seated, when it will require just 60 votes.
The measure, which passed the Republican-led Senate 49-9 in February, would authorize the University of Illinois and Southern Illinois University to study whether the crop, a relative of marijuana, would grow well in the state and make money for farmers. It also would study how to limit the plant’s level of the hallucinogenic chemical found in marijuana.
“This is not about drugs. It’s about agriculture,” Lawfer said.
Hemp, grown in Illinois during World War II, can be made into clothing and animal bedding, its seeds can provide nutrition in food and its oil can be used in cooking and paint.
“Just maybe we have a crop here to help many farmers in Illinois with an alternative crop,” said Rep. Chuck Hartke, D-Teutopolis.
But Rep. Patti Bellock, R-Hinsdale, said the bill would “desensitize” children to the use of marijuana.
“This bill is sending the wrong message to the youth of Illinois,” she said.
The bill is SB1397.
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