Hemp represents a growth opportunity for Hoosier farmers, but how should its production and sale be regulated? That question came up at the Lt. Governor Debate on Agriculture last week.
All three candidates support the growing of hemp but differ widely on how the crop should be regulated.
Democrat Linda Lawson said only certain types of hemp should be permitted.
“This is a niche market and represents an opportunity for Indiana farmers. It is regulated by the state chemist…it has no THC in it, it is safe to have and safe to grow. You can make all kinds of things out of it, and it is really good for Indiana to have this option.”
Republican Suzanne Crouch favors a market-oriented approach to the regulation of hemp.
“We are seeing that market grow here in Indiana. Last year we had 100 permits; this year we have over 250. According to the state chemist, we have about 7,000 acres of hemp planted. The challenge that we have is that we need to make sure to have markets for this crop.”
Crouch noted a hemp processor has made an investment in Indiana and may provide an opportunity for Indiana hemp growers.
Libertarian candidate William Henry had a much different take on hemp. He favors no regulations on the growing or use of any kind of hemp. Referring to it as cannabis, Henry said, “Cannabis is food first. You want to have access to all parts of this plant because cannabis is food first. It has omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids in it. It has proteins and micro and macro nutrients in it that are nutritional to the human body.”
Henry said, as head of the Indiana chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana laws, he favors the complete legalization of hemp and cannabis.
“I could go on for days about why cannabis should be completely legal here in the state of Indiana, both high THC and low THC. Cannabis is food first.”
In Indiana, a ban on smokable hemp flower included in its regulations was challenged in court.
In September 2019, a federal judge issued a preliminary injunction putting that part of the state’s regulations on hold; but, in July, the Seventh Circuit of the U.S. Court of Appeals reversed the injunction.
With that ruling, Indiana’s ban went into effect on Thursday, making possession and delivery of smokable hemp a misdemeanor offense.