INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (Jan. 19, 2016) – An Indiana bill would allow the state hemp seed commissioner to issue licenses for industrial hemp production without first obtaining federal waivers. Passage of this legislation would set the foundation to nullify in practice the unconstitutional federal prohibition of hemp within the state.

Rep. Lloyd Arnold (R-Dist. 74) introduced House Bill 1228 (HB1228) on Jan. 11. The legislation would amend the state’s industrial hemp laws to allow licensed growers to produce industrial hemp, and licensed handlers to process industrial hemp and seed without the seed commissioner obtaining federal waivers first. The bill would cut the federal government completely out of the state’s hemp policy.

Under current Indiana law, hemp farmers and processors can operate within the state, but they first must get all necessary federal waivers, a nearly impossible feat.

Early in 2014, President Barack Obama signed a new farm bill into law, which included a provision allowing a handful of states to begin limited research programs growing hemp. The “hemp amendment”

…allows State Agriculture Departments, colleges and universities to grow hemp, defined as the non-drug oil-seed and fiber varieties of Cannabis, for academic or agricultural research purposes, but it applies only to states where industrial hemp farming is already legal under state law.

In short, current federal law authorizes the farming of hemp – by research institutions only, for research only. Farming for commercial purposes by individuals and businesses remains prohibited. HB1228 ignores federal prohibition and authorizes commercial farming and production anyway.

OTHER STATES

By rejecting any need for federal approval, HB1228 would set the stage to nullify the federal hemp ban in practice. Indiana would join with other states – including Colorado, Oregon, South Carolina, Connecticut, Maine, North Dakota and Vermont – that have simply ignored federal prohibition and legalized industrial hemp production within their state borders.

While prospective hemp growers would still have to take federal law into consideration, by eliminating the state requirement for federal permission, the Indiana legislature would clear away a major obstacle to widespread commercial hemp farming within the borders of the state.

Farmers in SE Colorado started harvesting the plant in 2013, and farmers in Vermont began harvesting in 2014, effectively nullifying federal restrictions on such agricultural activities. On Feb. 2 of last year, the Oregon hemp industry officially opened for business and one week later, the first license went to a small non-profit group. The experience in these states shows some growers will willingly take the risk and defy federal law, knowing the likelihood of prosecution remains extremely low. As more people engage in hemp production and the market grows within these states, more people will become emboldened creating an exponential wave, ultimately nullifying the federal ban in effect.

HUGE MARKET FOR HEMP

According to a 2005 Congressional Research Service report, the U.S. is the only developed nation that hasn’t developed an industrial hemp crop for economic purposes.

Experts suggest that the U.S. market for hemp is around $600 million per year. They count as many as 25,000 uses for industrial hemp, including food, cosmetics, plastics and bio-fuel. The U.S. is currently the world’s #1 importer of hemp fiber for various products, with China and Canada acting as the top two exporters in the world.

During World War II, the United States military relied heavily on hemp products, which resulted in the famous campaign and government-produced film, “Hemp for Victory!”.

A1228 represents an essential first step toward hemp freedom in the state of Indiana.

WHAT’S NEXT

HB1228 was referred to the House Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development. It will have to pass out of committee by a majority vote before moving on to the full House for further consideration.

If you live in Indiana: For action steps to follow to help get HB1228 passed click HERE.

For other states: Take action to push back against hemp prohibition HERE.


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