Senate Panel Approves Bill To Open Up Hemp Industry In Indiana

Feb 15, 2018

A bill to open up the industrial hemp industry in Indiana passed a Senate panel, even as supporters face pushback from some skeptical lawmakers.

The committee hearing Thursday was the Senate’s first look this session at legislation meant to support the broader hemp sector. That’s while a measure to legalize the hemp byproduct cannabidiol, or CBD, already cleared the Senate this year.

The 2014 federal farm bill allowed limited hemp growing. And some states have since used that law to pursue expanded production. That includes Kentucky, where Brian Furnish helped lead the charge. Furnish says hemp is the crop of the future.

“Hemp in the United States, and Indiana and Kentucky especially, will be bigger than corn in my lifetime,” Furnish says.

Hemp byproducts include fiber, oil, food supplements, and cosmetics. Gregg Baumbaugh owns an Indiana company that uses hemp in auto parts. He says he wants to get that hemp from local producers.

“Why do we have to import our material from southeast Asia when the whole rest of the manufacturing process and supply chain is done right here, relatively close to central Indiana?” Baumbaugh says.

But some senators, including Sen. Erin Houchin (R-Salem), question whether federal law really allows as much as other states have pursued. And she suggests hemp production should be limited to just fiber, barring other byproducts including oil, food supplements, and cosmetics.

Justin Swanson from the Indiana Hemp Industries Association pushed back on that in this dialogue with Houchin.

“I would be opposed to anything that narrows the definition of industrial hemp,” Swanson says.

Houchin says, “Even if it’s in compliance with what other states are doing?”

“I’m more concerned about what the federal law allows,” Swanson says.

The committee approved the bill 8-3. The measure is expected to undergo changes on the Senate floor.