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Illinois police chiefs speak out against legalizing industrial hemp

Illinois police chiefs speak out against legalizing industrial hemp. (FILE)

Illinois police chiefs are pushing back against a bill that would legalize industrial hemp in Illinois.

Until recently, growing hemp was illegal.

The 2014 Farm Bill passed by Congress does allow states to start pilot programs to research the plant.

Hemp can be used for a variety of things such as clothing, biofuel, food, construction materials and more.

"We're very good at growing corn and soybeans and commodity crops in the state,” said Bill Bodine, associate director of state legislation at the Illinois Farm Bureau. “This would just provide an opportunity for a new crop that might provide an additional or different income stream for farmers in the state."

While legalizing the plant could give Illinois a new industry to join, some are concerned about what it could mean for the state’s future.

"For us it's more of the philosophical issue,” said Ed Wojcicki, executive director of the Illinois Association of Chiefs of Police.

Industrial hemp has very small amounts of THC, which is the ingredient in marijuana that gets people high.

Even though you can’t get intoxicated from hemp, with it coming to Illinois, the Association of Chiefs of Police warned that passing this could be a precursor to legalizing recreational marijuana.

"We oppose the bill because we're concerned about encroachment as we move toward legalization of recreational marijuana,” Wojcicki said. “There are some good public safety reasons to oppose that – people dying on highways and on roads, there will be more people going into the hospital."

The bill creating a pilot program for industrial hemp in Illinois passed the General Assembly in May.

It’ll be sent to Gov. Bruce Rauner sometime next week.

A spokesperson from Rauner’s office said the bill is currently being reviewed.

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