SPRINGFIELD -- Setting aside warnings that they might encourage drug
use, state lawmakers voted Tuesday to approve a study of industrial hemp
and its potential as a crop for Illinois farmers.

The legislation calls on the University of Illinois and Southern
Illinois University to study how well hemp - a close cousin of marijuana
- grows in Illinois and whether it could become a profitable crop.

The Illinois House approved the study 67-47. It had already passed the
Senate, so it now goes to Gov. George Ryan.

Supporters hope hemp, which can be used to make fabric, flour and oil,
could someday be an alternative for farmers hit by declining prices for
their crops.

Rep. Charles Hartke, D-Teutopolis, compared hemp to the once-exotic
soybean, now a mainstay on Illinois farms.

"It has potential. To get to that potential, we have to do a lot of
research and study," Hartke said.

But others -- including the White House Office of National Drug Control
Policy -- worry that any move in the direction of legalizing hemp
production will lead to increased marijuana use.

The Illinois State Police oppose the study because it's a step toward
legalizing hemp, which would send young people the wrong message about
marijuana and make life more difficult for police, said Capt. Dave
Sanders, a spokesman for the agency.

If hemp production were legalized, police would have trouble identifying
illegal marijuana fields, Sanders said. And people arrested for
possession could claim they simply had hemp, overloading police labs.

"The only way you're going to discern that is through the lab test," he

Sanders said any study of hemp should also examine the potential impact
on law enforcement.

The governor has not taken a position on the study and will review the
legislation when it reaches his desk, a spokesman said. (END)

Chicago, Illinois
By Christopher Wills
Associated Press

C. Penn, HIA Exec. Secretary
Hemp Industries Association
PO Box 1080, Occidental, CA 95465
Tel: 707 874 3648 Fax: 707 874 1104
Email: info@thehia.org