Indiana lawmakers consider expanding industrial hemp market
INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Indiana lawmakers are considering allowing farmers to grow industrial hemp.
Members of the Interim Study Committee on Agriculture and Natural Resources heard from farmers Monday. Don Zolman, CEO of Zolman Farms in Kosciusko County, said that having an alternative crop for Indiana farmers is vital at a time when the farming industry is difficult.
"I would encourage you to push the envelope here a little," Zolman told officials.
Only researchers at institutions are currently allowed to grow the plant. The committee toured Purdue University's hemp program to learn about how the plant's fibers, stalks and seed oil can be used in a variety of products.
The plant is a different type of cannabis that doesn't produce a high, said Dr. Ron Turco, the department head of agronomy at Purdue. He said researchers believe there's a lucrative market for hemp.
"We recognize industrial hemp will be part of agricultural growth," said Jeff Cummins with the Indiana State Department of Agriculture. "We have no opposition to a market-oriented program."
But Cummins said the state will need time to create regulations for hemp. He said the state agency isn't designed to handle such regulations and doesn't have the budget or staff needed.
Lawmakers may look into creating a regulation system similar to what's in place in Kentucky, said Republican state Sen. Randy Head of Logansport, who's a member of the summer study committee.
"Anyone that wants to grow, they have to have a permit issued by their state government," he said. "They have to have GPS coordinates for their growing operations so if the police want to come in and inspect, they know exactly where to go. Then, anything not being grown at those GPS coordinates is illegal."