INDIANAPOLIS — Movement to start an industrial hemp trade in Indiana is gaining momentum.

Leaders of the Indiana Hemp Industries Association, professors from Purdue University and other interested people will meet Aug. 18 to discuss the launch of a pilot program with the mission of starting hemp growing in the state.

Similar programs have begun in Kentucky.

“The Indiana bill that the governor signed in March, SB 357, says that you can grow hemp under the direction of a university or research program,” said Jamie Campbell, founder and president of Indiana’s hemp association.

“The next step is to meet at Purdue Aug. 18, with the Purdue Industrial Hemp Research Group. We will meet and set up some guidelines. We have to say, ‘OK, what are the requirements to grow hemp? Are there costs for paperwork? Acreage requirements?’”

Many laws and regulations will need to be defined before hemp can become a widely planted crop in Indiana.

What Is Hemp?

In Indiana, the official definition of hemp is a cannabis plant with THC levels under .03 percent by dry weight.

Smoking hemp does not cause narcotic and psychoactive affects.

Misconceptions about the difference between hemp and marijuana are common, Campbell said.

“One of the things so many people don’t understand is that hemp has been grown here and in this country long before we even know,” she said. “It dates back to the first white settlers in Indiana, who used it for rope, covered wagons — that kind of thing.”

Marijuana and hemp have a distinct visual difference, as well. Hemp grows straight up and looks more like a ditch weed, Campbell said.

Growing Hemp

Campbell does not expect industrial hemp to replace major row crops such as corn and soybeans in Indiana. Rather, it could serve as an option for farmers.

Hemp is planted in spring, between March and May, and harvested by the end of the summer.

Because hemp is a weed, it doesn’t require many inputs – such as pesticides or fertilizer — to grow. It is drought resistant and also gives nutrition to the soil, Campbell said.

“One of the things I love about the plant is you use the whole plant,” she said. “With hemp, you use the entire stalk.”

The three main components of the plant are the outer stalk, inner stalk and seed.

The outer stalk is fibrous, long and strong. It can be used to make clothing, furniture, awnings and other textiles.

The inner stalk, or hurd, can be used to make an ethanol blend, as well as other products. Hemp seed can be used in baking or pressed to make hemp oil.

“Hempcrete is an amazing building material that can be made from hemp,” said Tayler Glover, vice president of the hemp association. “It’s mold resistant, so it’s good for people with severe allergies.”

When it comes to hemp, Glover hopes farmers take the time to research it before dismissing it as a possibility.

“There’s been an old misconception about what hemp is,” she said. “But if farmers could research and talk to each other about it, I’d like to see that happen. We need more of a dialogue. It’s legal now, and there’s so much potential in this industry.”