Illinois Hemp Operators Call For Regulation Instead of Prohibition

Hemp business owners in Illinois are calling on lawmakers to approve legislation to regulate the state’s hemp industry instead of a bill that would ban products containing intoxicating cannabinoids including delta-8 THC. 

Last month, Democratic Senate Majority Leader Kimberly Lightford introduced a hemp regulation bill that would ban delta-8 and other hemp-derived intoxicating cannabinoids. Such products are currently unregulated in Illinois and are widely available at retailers including smoke shops, gas stations and convenience stores, often as edibles including chips and sweets that mimic popular brands. 

“We don’t know what exactly is in them,” Democratic state Representative Barbara Hernandez said at the time, according to a report from WGEM television news. “We don’t know the ingredients, they are not regulated to list the full ingredients and, as we see here at the table, there’s several items that look like products that we have had before.”

Lightford’s bill, dubbed the Hemp Consumer Products Act (SB3926), would also establish a licensing system for hemp product retailers and set requirements for the testing, packaging and marketing of hemp products. The measure, which is supported by the Illinois Cannabis Association, also mandates scientific research of hemp-derived intoxicating products to determine if they can be safely regulated and once again offered for sale in Illinois.

Tiffany Chappell Ingram, the association’s executive director, issued a statement calling for a “pause” of hemp intoxicant sales pending further research, according to a report from the Chicago Tribune.

“We look forward to working with legislators to find a path forward that empowers consumers, protects minors and ensures the state’s adult-use cannabis law lives up to its full promise, including uplifting social equity license holders and communities disproportionately impacted by the war on drugs,” she said.

Business Owners Call For Regulation, Not Prohibition

The Hemp Consumer Products Act is opposed by some lawmakers and many representatives of the hemp industry who believe the bill is too strict and likely to cripple the growing market for hemp products. Opponents of the bill held a press conference in the state capital of Springfield on Tuesday to make their case against the legislation and express support for a different hemp regulation bill.

Jennifer Weiss, founder and CEO of hemp products retailer Cubbington’s Cabinet in Chicago, said that she is afraid Lightford’s bill would set such strict limits that it would prohibit sales of non-intoxicating products such as CBD.

“We would have to shut our doors, as well as hundreds of other Illinois companies,” she said. “Let’s not go backward with out-of-touch prohibitions.”

Instead, the hemp entrepreneurs are backing a separate bill (HB5306) from Democratic state Representative Rep. La Shawn Ford. He said that Lightfoot’s bill would likely kill the state’s hemp industry while creating a new illicit market for hemp-derived intoxicating cannabinoids.

“Prohibition doesn’t work, and Illinois should reject going backward,” he said.

Ford’s bill would create a regulatory and taxation framework for hemp-derived cannabinoids such as CBD and delta-8 THC, including provisions for the licensing of businesses. The measure also limits sales of such products to adults aged 21 and older and sets a limit on the amount of THC contained in consumable hemp products. Additionally, the measure would ban look-alike hemp product packaging that copies the look of other consumer goods.

Ford said that he wants to prevent children from obtaining intoxicating hemp products and to take look-alike products off the market. He also said he does not want to endanger the state’s hemp industry, which could generate approximately $1.5 billion in state revenue over four years.

“We must do something about delta-8 and other unregulated delta hemp products now,” Ford said at Tuesday’s press conference. “Personally, I’ve been working with the industry calling for regulations for the better part of three years, and it’s time to act now,”.

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