By Erica Irish
INDIANAPOLIS — The House Agriculture and Rural Development Committee unanimously approved a bill Thursday that could widen opportunities for hemp farming in Indiana.
The expansion is made possible by Senate Bill 516, authored by Republican Sens. Randy Head of Logansport, Blake Doriot of Syracuse and Chip Perfect of Lawrenceburg. Rep. Sean Eberhart, R-Shelbyville, sponsored it in the House.
Overall, SB 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.
Purdue University, until now, was one of the only groups granted permission to grow hemp in Indiana. But changes introduced through the federal Farm Bill of 2018 have widened the field, permitting private farmers to work with the plant by removing it from the national list of controlled substances. Marijuana remains a controlled substance.
SB 516 did change in the final committee hearing after the members approved an amendment that tweaked several provisions around field inspections, among other fixes.
Under the amendment, growers who violate hemp regulations will face a civil penalty instead of the misdemeanor charge originally listed in SB 516. In this case, violators would lose their license and pay up to a $10,000 fine. The amendment will also allow law enforcement to inspect future hemp fields with aerial drones, prohibit local officials from regulating hemp production and more.
“This is a fluid process,” said Rep. Brad Barrett, R-Richmond. “We’ve got a starting point here that will allow crop to get in the ground.”
Erica Irish is a reporter for TheStatehouseFile.com, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students.