While Indiana lawmakers are working on legislation that would legalize the production and sale of hemp, the state House of Representatives voted in favor of an amendment that allows smoking the hemp flower.
Although hemp was legalized on the federal level with the 2018 Farm Bill, legislators left it up to the states to regulate the crop. Earlier this month, Senate Bill 516, which creates the necessary regulations, passed a second reading in the House. The Senate overwhelmingly approved the bill in February.
The original version of SB 516 banned smokable hemp flower, which confounded many hemp advocates. Law enforcement doubted whether officers would be able to tell it apart from marijuana flower, as they look and smell similar. But Rep. Jim Lucas (R) introduced a motion to allow smokable hemp, which was narrowly approved in the House 49-47.
Lawmakers will continue to discuss the merits of the amended bill after being approved in a third reading vote.
Allowing Indiana farmers to capitalize on this emerging industry
“The hemp flower, whether you agree with its medicinal benefits or what not, it’s still the easiest way for Hoosier farmers to enter this really emerging hemp market with the least amount of overhead,” Rep. Christy Stutzman (R) has said.
Gov. Eric Holcomb (R) has said he is “supportive of efforts to establish a hemp program” and will likely sign SB 516 into law.
Shawn Hauser, one of the key authors of the model plan for state hemp regulation from the American Hemp Campaign, has hailed legalization of the hemp flower “a positive development” for the industry.
She explained that smokable hemp is popular in other countries, though it still troubles law enforcement because of its similarity to marijuana.
“There is still a lot of education happening with enforcement and regulators as to the difference,” she said. “We’re coming out of decades of hemp and marijuana being lumped together, which is why we haven’t been able to grow hemp in the United States for all these years.”
“It is important for hemp and hemp-derived products to be regulated and seen differently than marijuana,” she continued.
Historically, the plants have also been consumed for different reasons. “A hemp cigarette and a marijuana cigarette are not used for the same purpose,” Hauser said.
She concluded that both consumers and law enforcement will be able to better distinguish between hemp and marijuana once the right regulations, for example concerning packaging and labeling, are put in place.