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Craft brewers in Illinois fearful of future restrictions on hemp beverages | Illinois


(The Center Square) – Some craft breweries in Illinois branching off into the hemp beverage industry are relieved that proposed restrictions stalled in Springfield, but they wonder what the future holds.

A measure that didn’t make it out of the General Assembly would allow the sale of hemp products, but only by businesses licensed under the current cannabis law. 

Industry experts said hemp drinks have been a lifeline for struggling breweries still trying to recover from the pandemic. 

Ray Stout, executive director of the Illinois Craft Brewers Guild, said those who want restrictions in place were not forthcoming with their legislation.

“That they’re going after the bad actors and the delta-8 gas station people but in essence they’re  going after the entire hemp industry,” said Stout.  

Stout believes 10% of breweries are making hemp-derived beverages, which is equal to about 30, and another 40 to 50 that are in various stages of research and development.

While marijuana remains illegal under federal law, federal lawmakers legalized hemp in 2018, defining it as cannabis or cannabinoids with less than 0.3% delta-9 THC.

Stout said the legislature should create a regulatory framework that allows hemp drinks to be manufactured and sold safely and properly.

“The farm bill is pretty explicit in saying hemp should be treated like hemp and marijuana should be treated like marijuana,” said Stout. “These products are a derivative of hemp, which the federal government said is different from cannabis.”

Minnesota generated $1.5 million in tax revenue from over $15 million in sales from hemp-derived drinks just two months after the state began regulating the industry in June 2022.  

The bill’s sponsors and the governor expect the issue will come up again during the next legislative session.


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Caleb Alexander

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