INDIANAPOLIS (AP) -
Allowing farmers to grow hemp in Indiana could help boost the economy and
dispel myths about a crop that can be used to make everything from paper to
car parts, supporters told lawmakers Friday.
helped convince the Senate’s agriculture committee to unanimously approve a
bill that would enable farmers to legally grow industrial hemp, but only if
they or the state gets federal approval. Hemp is marijuana’s
non-intoxicating cousin but it cannot be grown under federal law, though
many products made from hemp, such as oils and clothing, are legal.
The bill’s sponsor,
Sen. Richard Young, D-Milltown, said hemp fields flourished in Indiana
before and during World War II, but petrochemical industries and other
industries later lobbied against hemp - which can also be used to make fuel
- to cut competition.
“This is a plant
that has been used for centuries throughout the world and has tremendous
potential,” Young said.
stereotypes have haunted efforts to legalize the crop ever since, said Neal
Smith, chairman of Indiana National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana
Laws. He wore a pin with the five-branched hemp leaf, which looks almost
identical to a marijuana leaf but has two fewer branches.
similar legislation last year, and eight other states have done the same,
according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
The 1970 Controlled
Substances Act requires hemp growers to get a permit from the Drug
Enforcement Administration. The last permit was issued in 1999 - and expired
in 2003 - for an experimental plot in Hawaii. U.S. Sens. Rand Paul and Mitch
McConnell of Kentucky are co-sponsoring legislation that would federally
legalize industrial hemp farming.
benefits remain unclear, however, and whether Indiana would receive a permit
farmers said waiting on state legislation would be a disadvantage.
“I wish Kentucky
wouldn’t always be in front of us,” Indiana Farmers Union member Pam Patrick
told the committee. “When I see industrial hemp, I see money.”
Kentucky research from last year suggested Kentucky could support about
80,000 acres of hemp that would bring in between $200 and $300 per acre,
although increasing supplies could cut that to about $100 per acre. The
research shows the current national market for the crop is small, and likely
could only support a few dozen jobs in Kentucky.
Also speaking in
favor of the Indiana legislation were two mothers of children with Dravet
syndrome, a rare childhood disease that causes frequent seizures.
Cannabidiol, a chemical in hemp, is sometimes used to stop the seizures.
broke down in tears while telling lawmakers how her 7-year-old son can’t
visit the zoo because overstimulation can trigger seizures.
“Help me and help
all the state of Indiana be a voice for these children,” Barrett said.
“Support this bill.”
No one spoke
against the bill, which now moves to the full Senate.