By Jess Seabolt
A bill to legalize the cultivation of industrial hemp in Indiana is headed to Gov. Mike Pence after it passed the House Wednesday night and the Senate on Thursday.
Democratic Sen. Richard Young of Milltown said that over a period of years Senate Bill 357 would have a large impact by providing Indiana with hundreds or even thousands of jobs, especially in agriculture.
"While the cultivation and production of industrial hemp will create jobs in the agricultural sector, the current costs of importing and transporting hemp from countries like Canada prevent our manufacturers from really prospering while making hemp products," Young said in a press release.
"Producing hemp in the state will cut those costs and help our manufacturers create jobs," he said.
Young said industrial hemp products could be made right now but it's expensive to import hemp from out of the country. He said manufacturers in Indiana choose to use other products instead. But being able to grow hemp right next to industrial facilities will cut down on the transportation costs and make it really cost effective.
Industrial hemp has numerous uses - including medicines, textiles, ropes, paper products, plastics, automotive factory material and building materials - but contains less than .03 percent of the hallucinogenic compound THC, which is below the federal limit and does not cause a "mind-altering" sensation.
Sen. Karen Tallian, D-Portage, noted it could be an alternative crop for farmers because it grows wild and doesn't need "all that fertilizer and all that stuff that we have to so carefully tend corn and beans."
Both Young and Tallian noted hemp's ability to act as an alternative to corn and beans.
"If you've got another crop that you can grow instead of corn and soy beans then it'll help to hold the market up on corn and soy beans," Young said.
Young said there are bills in the U.S. Senate and the U.S. House of Representatives to do away with the prohibition on industrial hemp.
Ten states have already passed legislation to legalize the production of industrial hemp but it remains against federal law. However, the farm bill recently passed by Congress allows some experimentation that could eventually lead to federal approval.
Jess Seabolt is a reporter for TheStatehouseFile.com, a news service powered by Franklin College journalism students.