SPRINGFIELD — Applications to grow and process industrial hemp are now live as of 9 a.m. Tuesday.

“From farming to processing to sales and exports — this will have a massive impact on our state’s economy,” Gov. JB Pritzker said at a press conference. “Farmers across the state can diversify their crops and join a growing industry.”

According to Pritzker, industrial hemp is a “potentially billion-dollar industry.”

“This will help create jobs and grow our economy in Illinois,” he said.

Hundreds of people have already expressed interest in growing hemp just this year. John Sullivan, acting director of the state Department of Agriculture, said the number could grow to 1,000. Unlike some other states, Illinois does not have a cap on the number of applications that can be accepted.

Applications are online at bit.ly/ILhemp. There is a $100 application fee. Once approved, farmers can get a license. A one-year license is $375, two years is $700, and three years is $1,000.

“It’s a fairly simple process,” Sullivan said. “Identify where you’re going to be growing the crop (and) pay your licensure fees. ... As soon as the weather dries up here a little bit, you’re going to be able to plant hemp.”

Illinois joins 40 other states that allow hemp production in some capacity. Hemp was banned in the United States in 1937, when the Marijuana Tax Act was passed. It became legal with the federal Farm Bill in 2018. Last year, Illinois passed the Industrial Hemp Act, allowing those wanting to grow it for commercial purposes to get licensed.

When filling out the application, farmers will have to identify where the field will be. Agriculture department staff will periodically check the crop to make sure it is under the allowed limit for THC, the active ingredient in marijuana.

“Obviously, we want to know where the crop is being grown. We want to make sure that it doesn’t get abused,” Sullivan said.

There are two types of hemp, one grown for fiber and one grown for CBD oil. Sullivan said the hemp grown on the fiber side could be used as a substitute for different forms of plastic.

To educate the public about hemp, a couple of small plots will be planted at the Illinois State and Du Quoin fairgrounds.