Gov. Pat Quinn has signed a law allowing universities and the Illinois Department of Agriculture to study industrial hemp.
The Chicago Democrat signed the measure Tuesday creating a pilot program.
Industrial hemp is in the same species as marijuana but has a negligible amount of marijuana's active ingredient. Hemp can be used in the production of plastics, fuel, textiles and food.
The Illinois law says an institution of higher education or the state's Agriculture Department can study the growth, cultivation and marketing of hemp. Those wanting to participate have to notify the state and local law enforcement and provide reports to the state.
Several other states have similar programs.
Illinois' law takes effect in January.
The state approved a plan legalizing medical marijuana last year.