Are ties to marijuana industry a problem for suburban lawmaker seeking CBD rules?
Deerfield Democratic state Rep. Bob Morgan says the CBD Safety Act he sponsored would make consumers safer and would benefit Illinois growers of hemp, the source of many CBD products.
Hemp growers in Illinois disagree, saying HB 147 will hurt them and benefit marijuana companies, which have ties to Morgan and have contributed to his campaign fund.
The bill passed Wednesday in the House in a 96-15 vote.
The bill calls for the prohibition of the sale of CBD products unless the products have undergone lab testing, meet standards developed by the Illinois Department of Agriculture and meet labeling requirements. The legislation would give the Illinois Department of Public Health, the Illinois State Police, sheriff's departments, municipal police and the Illinois Department of Revenue the authority to inspect any CBD manufacturer or distributor for compliance.
Current state law makes industrial hemp grown in the state subject to random testing; however, products made from CBD do not have to undergo the same testing. Morgan's bill seeks to change that.
Chris Berry, chief operating officer for the Illinois Hemp Growers Association, says he "does not see the point" in the legislation other than its benefits to the marijuana industry, a direct competitor in the CBD market. Berry noted Morgan's ties to the marijuana industry and said the law feels "sketchy."
Morgan has received thousands of dollars in campaign donations from marijuana dispensaries and from pharmaceutical companies that are researching both CBD and THC therapy, and also one food testing lab. THC is the main compound in marijuana that produces a "high."
Dating back to 2017, Morgan has received a total of $30,700 from 14 companies involved with marijuana sales and research, according to his campaign finance reports.
Morgan denied the legislation has anything to do with his ties to the marijuana industry. Before being elected in 2018, he was a partner at Benesch Law in Chicago, where he worked as the state coordinator for the Illinois Medical Cannabis Pilot Program. Benesch Law describes itself as a "nationally recognized leader in the legal cannabis industry" on its website.
"This is really pretty purely a public safety issue," Morgan said. "Any industry group or business out there that is not willing to make their products safe before selling them to someone for ingesting, then we will have to disagree. ... I make no apologies for passing legislation that makes products safer."
The Midwest Hemp Coalition, which worked with Morgan on the bill, said in a statement it still has "major concerns" with the CBD Safety Act. The coalition said the increased costs of lab testing, labeling and packaging will be a burden to farmers and producers already struggling during the pandemic.
Both the Midwest Hemp Coalition and Illinois Hemp Growers Association agreed on the idea of safer products but say the bill is not feasible.
"We want to make it so hemp growers in Illinois have an outlet, but so far the cannabis industry has pretty much had their way whenever they want because there is so much more money behind it, they have so much more representation in government," Berry said.
The bill has been assigned to the Senate Assignments Committee where it will be sponsored by Republican Sen. Jason Barickman of Bloomington.