Hemp production drops slightly in 2020

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SPRINGFIELD – Industrial hemp production declined slightly in 2020, the second year of legalized production in Illinois.

The Illinois Department of Agriculture said Wednesday that 2,392 acres of industrial hemp, or 87 percent of the acres planted, were harvested during the year. That was down from just over 2,800 acres in 2019.

That translated into just under 1.3 million pounds of hemp flower, 48,000 pounds of hemp fiber, 39,000 pounds of seed and 8,500 pounds of hemp grain.

“The hemp industry, just like many others was hit by the pandemic,” David Lakeman, manager of IDOA’s Division of Cannabis, said in a statement. “Workforce safety challenges, pandemic-related impacts on the market, and some initial issues with processing all contributed to a more difficult year for the hemp industry.”

Hemp is a variety of cannabis that contains only a small fraction of the psychoactive substance THC found in marijuana. It was a major crop in the U.S. until 1937 when Congress passed the Marijuana Tax Act, which imposed a heavy tax on anyone who dealt commercially in hemp or marijuana.

The fiber can be used in textiles, food and a wide range of other industrial purposes. But in recent years it has become more popular as a source of cannabidiol oil, or CBD, which can be used to treat a variety of medical conditions.

Although it is now legal, production of the crop is still highly regulated. Growers and processors must be licensed by IDOA. The agency also inspects crops to make sure they do not exceed the 0.3 percent THC limit. Hemp testing above that amount is eligible for a retest, but hemp that tests above 0.7 percent THC must be destroyed.

IDOA is now accepting applications for the 2021 hemp growing season. People interested in growing or processing hemp can do so online at https://agrlicensing.illinois.gov/Industrial_Hemp/.

Capitol News Illinois is a nonprofit, nonpartisan news service covering state government and distributed to more than 400 newspapers statewide. It is funded primarily by the Illinois Press Foundation and the Robert R. McCormick Foundation.

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