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Illinois Leaps Headlong into the Industrial Hemp Market

By William Sumner, Hemp Business Journal Contributor

Illinois is going all-in on cannabis. In becoming the first state to legislatively enact (rather than pass via ballot measure) both to legalize adult-use cannabis and create a state sales marketplace, Illinois has seen a surge in interest for industrial hemp. Prompted by the passage of the 2018 Farm Bill, which federally legalized industrial hemp for the first time since World War II, the Land of Lincoln is on its way to establishing a dynamic hemp market.

Case in point: Within 24 hours of opening the application process for hemp cultivation licenses, the Illinois Department of Agriculture (IDA) was inundated with over 400 applications from interested farmers. Since the application process began in May, the IDA received 667 applications, approving 434 cultivators and 89 processors.

That is significant, especially given other states with similar population levels. By comparison, despite Pennsylvania’s being in the second year of its industrial hemp program, only 319 cultivation permits have been issued there.

Confident that Illinois is poised to become a major hemp producer, the Ontario-based hemp company Red White & Bloom (RWB) is making major bets on the market. Late last month, the company signed a letter of intent to acquire what could be one of the world’s largest hemp production facilities.

Located in Granville, the new production facility totals 3.6 million square feet with over 451,282 square feet of production and warehouse facilities. That represents a massive undertaking compared to other hemp production facilities, as it is nearly 1.5x the size of Canopy Growth’s  (NYSE: CGC) new production facility in Kirkwood, New York.

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