RUSHVILLE, Ill. (WMBD) — A local family hemp farm is pushing back against proposed legislation they said would cripple their industry.
In Illinois, hemp is required to contain less than 0.3 percent Delta 9/THC, the psychoactive compound found in cannabis. The cannabis industry has proposed legislation to ban products containing Delta 8 and Delta 10 cannabinoids, which can found at your local smoke shop.
Justin Ward, the chief operating officer of Stoney Branch Farm, a family hemp farm in Rushville, said cannabis industry views the hemp industry as a threat.
“It’s direct competition for them because our products are typically more affordable, and there’s a lot of people who actually prefer the effects of products like Delta 8, Delta 10 over traditional Delta 9,” he said. “They’re trying to push this narrative that basically the hemp industry is a bunch of seedy businesses trying to push products that are mislabeled, that have heavy metals in them, that have residual solvents in them to kids.”
Paralyzed from the waist down, Vicky Crouse used to take 12 pills a day for pain associated with a spinal cord injury for 20 years. After taking hemp capsules and gummies for the last two years, she said the pain and the pills are gone.
“I live independently, I like to be able to function and drive. I don’t like to feel impaired. If I don’t take them, my foot will tap or I’ll get abdominal spasms…I’m wound up like a clock That would be devastating [if they ban Delta 8 and Delta 10]. I dread the thought of going back to taking all those pills,” she said.
Ward said the cannabis lobby tried to push the legislation through at the eleventh hour, but it failed due to pushback from the hemp industry.
“So they tried to add this language in at the last second without any input from hemp industry stakeholders. There was a big outcry from hemp industry stakeholders as well as consumers of hemp products who are not in favor of this ban,” he said.
If the legislation had passed, Ward said at least 50 percent of his business would be impacted. He said the hemp industry does need regulations, but restrictions on cannabinoids are not the answer.
“That is a huge part of our customer base: people who still don’t want any kind of a high but want some of the benefits they can get from hemp plants. We need more regulations in our industry because it helps weed out the bad actors who are doing things we are not in support of. It ensures we’re providing safe products to consumers throughout the state, and that we’re also protecting our industry to thrive and grow and have protections,” he said.
For Ward, an ideal regulatory framework would be 21 and over to purchase products; keeping products behind store counters; testing requirements for heavy metals, residual solvents and potency; and child-safe packaging requirements with proper dosage instructions.
“We just want to be invited to the table to draft regulations for our industry so it can continue to grow in Illinois and help consumers benefitting so much from these products,” he said.
Crouse pleaded for legislators not to take her medication away.
“Please don’t. please don’t. We need these products to survive comfortably. I would be devastated if I didn’t have these capsules. These pills and capsules give me such a great quality of life for the past two years now,” she said.
Now that the General Assembly is out of session, Ward said they will be using the time to inform lawmakers and hopefully craft legislation to ensure the hemp industry continues to flourish in Illinois.
“In the meantime, we’re trying to educate legislators on what the hemp industry really looks like: family businesses like ours trying to do things the right way….This industry has created a lot of jobs and a lot of good for Illinois as a whole. We just need to bring regulations that would allow the industry to continue to grow and provide safe effective products to people, and get rid of these bad actors. I think we could make everyone happy,” he said.
WMBD reached out to Cannabis Business Association of Illinois, but did not hear back.