INDIANAPOLIS — The newly formed Midwest Hemp Council aims to set the facts straight about industrial hemp.
“Our goal is to reunite the hemp industry in the Midwest once again,” said Justin Swanson, president of the council and vice president of Bose Public Affairs Group.
“The vision of the council is to become the most trusted policy center for the development of the reemerging industrial hemp industry in Indiana and surrounding states.”
The group will do so by providing guidance and information to government officials, farmers, academia, processors and users of hemp derivatives.
Because hemp is associated with its THC-bearing relative, marijuana, there are many misconceptions about it.
“Indiana has seen firsthand what has happened when legislators do not have all the facts,” Swanson said.
During the 2018 General Assembly, the House voted unanimously to approve House Bill 1137 — an act that would make it legal to grow and process industrial hemp.
The bill also was approved by lawmakers on the Senate Commerce and Technology Committee and was expected to pass, until Gov. Eric Holcomb asked lawmakers to stop the bill.
“He didn’t feel that Indiana was prepared,” said Jamie Campbell Petty, founder of Indiana Hemp Industries Association and co-founder of Midwest Hemp Council.
“It’s very disappointing. But since that time, our membership grew and people started paying attention.”
Industrial hemp now will be studied during a summer committee and addressed again at the 2019 General Assembly.
In the meantime, leaders of the Midwest Hemp Council are hard at work.
“We’ve been meeting with key officials on Governor Holcomb’s administration, as well as contacts in the Department of Agriculture, to educate the policymakers and let them know this issue isn’t going away,” Swanson said.
“We can either lead from the front or try to catch up, which is what we’ve been doing since 2014.”
Other states, such as Kentucky, are leading the way in industrial hemp farming.
“According to the Kentucky Department of Agriculture, Kentucky farmers are making $2,000 to $3,000 net per acre for growing hemp for CBD,” Petty said. “We can’t grow it here. It is sort of a wakeup call.”
Midwest Hemp Council leaders are hoping Indiana’s State Department of Agriculture will become more involved with industrial hemp.
“We are the only state in the country that does not have active involvement in our hemp program with our Department of Agriculture,” Swanson said. “That really needs to happen in order to have a credible hemp program in Indiana.”
Senator McConnell, R-Ky., put forth the Hemp Farming acting of 2018, Senate Bill 2667, in April.
If passed, alongside companion House Bill 5485, it would redefine hemp as an agricultural commodity and remove it from regulation as a controlled substance.
“The bill treats hemp as an agricultural crop,” Petty said. “Here’s Indiana, already behind. If federal legislation passes that lets everybody grow it, we have not made the best use of our time.”
To learn more about industrial hemp in Indiana, visit www.inhia.net.