Chicago Tribune

'This is farming like we've never done before.' Illinois hemp farmers face risks with first planting of newly legal crop

Thousands of young hemp plants dance in the breeze as fans blow through a loft on Trent Lawrence's organic produce farm. And once a day, they dance to Bob Marley.

"The plants have got to have a little tunes," Lawrence said, bending down to an industrial Bluetooth speaker and turning up the volume.

Lawrence is babying the hemp plants, he'll be the first to admit. But he has to.

The farmer in Tazewell County, southeast of Peoria, is one of about 475 Illinoisans who have received licenses to farm hemp since the state started accepting applications last month. Hemp, a cousin of the marijuana plant, is perhaps best known for its use in foods and fibers. But certain varieties of hemp produce cannabidiol, or CBD, the wildly popular cannabis compound that is being infused into everything from animal treats to teas and cosmetics.

CBD, which does not get users high, has been touted as a cure for stress, inflammation, insomnia, and any number of other ailments.

With demand for CBD growing faster than the plants themselves, Lawrence and other Illinois farmers are making big bets on hemp. If everything goes according to plan,

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