Lawmakers to hear industrial hemp bill

In this Oct. 5, 2013 photo, Derek Cross, a chef who specializes in cooking with hemp, helps harvest the plant in Springfield, Colo. Although it can’t be grown under federal drug law, about two dozen Colorado farmers grew marijuana’s non-intoxicating cousin in the summer. This is the first known harvest of the industrial version of Cannabis sativa in the U.S. since the late 1950s. (AP Photo/Kristen Wyatt)

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — A bill that would expand the research of industrial hemp in Indiana will go before lawmakers. Some federal regulations treat hemp similar to marijuana, but industrial hemp is used to make goods like rope, clothing or even fuel.

House Bill 1181 would distinguish industrial hemp from marijuana. Industrial hemp is in the marijuana family, but it’s not used as a drug.

Last year, the state legislature passed a bill that allowed universities to grow and research industrial hemp. This year’s bill would protect researchers and allow them to use all of the plant, including the seeds, oil, leaves and fibers.

Right now, consumers can buy hemp products, but farmers cannot grow it.  Hemp is used to make thousands of products. Different parts of the plant can be used for different products, and that’s why supporters say distinguishing the entire plant from marijuana is important.

The president of the Indiana Hemp Industries Association says being able to grow the plant here instead of importing it, would be a huge boost to the state’s economy.

“It is a gamechanger. We’ve had to fight a slow battle but it’s absolutely a gamechanger. It can be for clothing — and that will bring jobs to so many sectors. Processing plants have to be built, for machines that are required to process the fiber,” said Jamie Petty, with IHIA.

Petty said Purdue is leading the way in the research right now, and will start planting seeds this spring under the tighter regulations passed last year. Supporters say they hope farmers are eventually able to grow industrial hemp freely.

While people opposed to the bill worry about the plant’s connection to marijuana.

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