By Emily Ketterer
INDIANAPOLIS — In a close 49-47 vote that crossed party lines, the House passed an amendment to a hemp bill that will legalize selling and smoking the hemp flower in Indiana.
Senate Bill 516 will create a hemp regulatory commission to work with the Indiana seed commissioner in approving licenses for farmers who wish to grow and profit from hemp. The crop is part of the cannabis family but lacks the high-inducing tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) found in marijuana plants.
The bill did not allow the sale of smokeable hemp flower, which looks very similar to the marijuana plant, despite the federal government legalizing the production of this and all types of hemp
Rep. Jim Lucas, R-Seymour, authored the amendment to include the hemp flower in the legislation, allowing companies to sell it and people to legally smoke it. Lucas said this is the easiest way to harvest hemp because farmers can grow it, dry it and sell it.
“Why do we want to mess with a very simple process that is currently legal?” Lucas asked.
The concern with the amendment was that some lawmakers who support the bill might oppose it with the amendment. Rep. Don Lehe, R-Brookston, said the main reason the flower is not included is because law enforcement expressed concern that they cannot tell the difference between it and regular marijuana.
“It looks like marijuana, smells like marijuana,” Lehe said.
Both parties were divided on the issue, causing House Speaker Brian Bosma, R-Indianapolis, to call for a head count vote by the majority and minority floor leaders. When the vote was still too close to call from counting by hand Bosma called for a roll-call.
When the roll-call was tallied, floor leaders Rep. Matt Lehman, R-Bern, and Rep. Phil GiaQuinta, D-Fort Wayne, celebrated with a fist bump because to their surprise, their math was correct.
Emily Ketterer is a reporter for TheStatehouseFile.com, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students.