The Herald Bulletin

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Editorials

February 26, 2014

Editorial: Hoosier hemp has high potential

Hemp, it’s not just for pot smokers anymore.

In fact, for years, hemp has been used in making products since, well, the Han Dynasty first came up with paper. Over the past 2,000 years, hemp, which is derived from the cannabis plant, has been transformed into rope, food and lately insulation, among numerous products.

The sad note is that it’s just taken the Indiana Legislature until recently to understand that hemp used to create products is an acceptable function, particularly when it comes to potential cash crops in the Hoosier farmland.

Recently, the conservative-led Senate Agriculture Committee unanimously approved a bill to legalize the cultivation and production of industrial hemp. It would mostly be used to make fiber for paper and cloth.

It looks like the illegal drug but it doesn’t have the psychoactive THC punch of marijuana. The legislative bill would specify the difference between industrial hemp and marijuana.

If the bill is passed — and it should be — Indiana would need to obtain a waiver from federal drug laws that prohibit hemp production. Hemp cultivators would need to obtain a license through the state seed commissioner. And the Indiana State Police would be able to inspect any production facility.

There is no estimate currently as to what kind of financial impact a hemp industry could mean to Indiana. However, locally grown hemp might help save money for Indiana businesses.

For example, Gregg Baumbaugh spends $1 million a year in importing hemp and natural fibers to his Elkhart County business so he can make biodegradable material used in car interiors. He testified at the Indiana General Assembly that homegrown hemp might be cheaper.

With serious dialogue, hemp farmers could help overcome the myths associated with the product and perhaps bolster the economy.

Hoosier hemp could be viable; its industry potential is the only high that growers and users will receive. A discussion on its merits is important.

Growing industrial hemp should be legal in this state. Its uses are far-reaching and, with encouragement from the state, they could grow even wider.

In Summary The Legislature should make growing hemp legal in Indiana. The inability to grow hemp has hampered farmers, while the inability to purchase it locally has proved costly for Hoosier businesses.

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