Lawmakers are continuing to advance a bill that would allow Hoosier farmers to market hemp and CBD oil.
House Bill 1137 clearly defines that hemp and its related products, like CBD oil or cannabidiol, are not marijuana and therefore are not regulated by the state’s drug laws. The Senate Commerce and Technology Committee approved it by an 8-3 vote Wednesday.
The bill would allow Indiana farmers to plant and harvest hemp. Hemp is the fiber of a cannabis plant that has a THC level of less than 0.3 percent, which is the substance in marijuana that gives users a high.
Hemp seeds can be eaten, and the fiber can be used for insulation, car parts and clothing.
While some people still have some concerns that this bill might contain loopholes that would allow people to use recreational or medicinal marijuana, Sen. Randy Head, R-Logansport, said that was not the point of the bill.
“The point of the bill is to create the opportunity for Indiana farmers to grow a cash crop that’s being grown and produced in other states and used in goods,” said Head, the Senate sponsor of the bill.
Head said he wanted to continue to work with the Alcohol and Tobacco Commission, the Prosecuting Attorney’s Council, the State Police, the Hemp Association, Farm Bureau and the Governor’s office to address concerns and work on the bill.
Rep. Jim Lucas, R-Seymour, said he authored the bill to bring an exploding industry to the state.
“Indiana is the number one manufacturing state in the nation,” he said during his testimony. “We’re one of the best agricultural states in the nation, and it really does not make sense why we’re not taking full advantage of this incredible plant.”
Brian Furnish, an eighth-generation farmer from Kentucky, helped pass similar legislation related to hemp in 2014. He also worked to get legislation passed at the federal level as well.
Furnish, who has harvested 996 acres of hemp, said that hemp is the crop of the future. He said that the gross revenue for one acre of hemp is $3,000.
“It’s our opinion, if this is done right, that hemp in the United States, and in Indiana and Kentucky especially, will be bigger than corn in my lifetime,” he said during his testimony.
Sen. Jean Leising, R-Oldenburg, voted against the bill because she said it could put Indiana at odds with federal law.
“I just think that everybody here needs to understand that even though some other states have adopted and are doing this, it may be questionable under federal law at the very least,” she said.
Abrahm Hurt is a reporter for TheStatehouseFile.com, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students.