A bill which would allow the expansion of hemp production in Indiana is on its way to the Gov. Eric Holcomb for his approval. The legislation cleared its final hurdles on Wednesday, passing the Senate with 39-9 and the House 94-3.
Hemp is a strain which comes from cannabis sativa plant, the same plant which produces marijuana making hemp a marijuana genus plant. The main difference between hemp and marijuana is that the former contains low levels of THC or tetrahydro cannabinoid, the chemical which is responsible for producing the ‘high’ feeling when users smoke weed.
Hemp is now being commercially used in an array of products – lifestyle, beauty, healthcare, foods and drinks – for its potential health benefits. It is known to be an anti-inflammatory and non-psychoactive drug which helps reduce pain, swelling, stress, anxiety, depression and also treat severe diseases such as cancer, epilepsy and Alzheimer’s.
Though these claims are not backed by internationally recognized research, many users claim to have experienced the positive effects of the drug when taken carefully in a regulated manner.
Senate Bill 516, authored by Sen. Randy Head, R-Logansport, would ensure that CBD oil is considered legal within Indiana, however, all its other variants would still be labelled as illegal. Additionally, if anyone is found growing hemp without a license, they could be charged with a Class A misdemeanour and face a civil penalty of up to $10,000.
The bill also establishes the Indiana Hemp Advisory Committee to recommend the governor’s administration regarding the state’s hemp laws. The committee will be made up of regulators and members of the hemp industry, and will be dissolved after only two years of its formation.
“This is a bill we simply have to pass for Hoosier farmers,” Head said. “It will help them and help our economy.”
Sen. Mark Stoops, D-Bloomington, said that the legislation would pave ways for Indiana farmers into the hemp market.
“This bill is a big deal for farmers in the state,” he said. “This will keep that money in Indiana, allow it to circulate.”
Out of the nine votes against the bill in the Senate came from Sen. Karen Tallian, D-Ogden Dunes, who said that the bill did not do enough justice to fully regulate hemp in the state.
“My no vote is not because I don’t want this bill to go forward,” she said. “I’m also convinced this bill does not yet do the job that we need to do. “
Tallian has authored bills related to marijuana regulatory reforms since 2011, she has been an advocate for the cannabis industry in Indiana for years now. Nevertheless, she was not the only cannabis reform advocate who decided to vote no on the SB 516. Rep. Jim Lucas, R-Seymour, was one of three ‘no’ votes in the House, quoting that it would adversely affect legal businesses and make them illegal, forcing them to shut their doors.
Lucas sought for specific answers as to why the house was criminalizing a federally legal product. He further added his concerns that they were putting politics above policy this time which isn’t a good decision.
Rep. Dave Heine, R-New Haven, opposed to Lucas, saying that the production of hemp would only aid farmers and increase the state’s economy. He said that the bill was an agricultural bill which meant that if they didn’t pass it, they would be making their farmers suffer. “We are the Garden of Eden to raise hemp”, said Heine.
While Indiana is struggling to set their regulatory reforms straight, Kentucky hemp processors lead the cannabinoid space with nearly $58 million in gross product sales last year, compared to $17 million in 2017.
After the farm bill was passed in December 2018, the hemp industry has expanded significantly with companies and retailers jumping on to the CBD bandwagon. CBD is one of the hottest and most trending ingredients in the market currently.
Consumers are being curious about the product and want to explore its effects which is driving companies to create and cater new products infused with CBD oil.