Lawmakers in both chambers passed legislation Wednesday that would allow Indiana to regulate the growth and sale of hemp.
After months of deliberating, lawmakers took the final step in bringing the hemp market to Indiana and are now sending it to the governor for final approval. The final version of the bill creates a hemp advisory committee, consisting of regulators and industry leaders, and a regulatory structure. Sen. Randall Head (R-Logansport), one of the bill’s authors, says the legislation gives a deadline for the committee so that its only purpose is to help set up the state’s hemp laws.
“[The committee] sunsets after two years,” says Head. “So we’re emphasizing it only has one purpose, which is to advise the governor and what our plan ought to be and no other rule making authority.”
Rep. Jim Lucas (R-Seymour) expressed concern about one element in the bill that he interpreted would turn the legal sale of hemp flowers to all but hemp processors into a criminal offense.
“Yes we want to do something for farmers but not at the expense of other people that have scraped together their life savings,” says Lucas. “Beg, borrowed, steal every penny they can get to open up a business, to do something legal, to sell something the federal government recognizes as a legal product. Now the State of Indiana comes in and says, ‘You’re a criminal, we’re going to put you out of business.”
For several lawmakers, including Sen. Mark Stoops (D-Bloomington), approving the bill was about opening new markets to Hoosier farmers and being competitive with neighboring states.
“So right now there are so many items that actually come into this state that are produced out of state and this will actually keep that money in the state of Indiana and allow it to circulate,” says Stoops.
The 2018 federal Farm Bill removed hemp from the list of controlled substances and allowed state officials to submit regulation proposals for growing hemp.
Similar legislation had previously been introduced, but failed to get enough support to pass.
The last time hemp was commercially grown in Indiana was in the mid-20th century.