INDIANAPOLIS | The state seed commissioner is wasting no time in trying to win federal approval for Hoosier farmers to grow hemp for industrial purposes.
Commissioner Robert Waltz last week sent letters to the U.S. Department of Agriculture and U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration advising them of Indiana's new law permitting industrial hemp production and seeking permission for research and planting to begin.
"We are now in a waiting mode," Waltz said. "Without federal approval, nothing will happen."
Industrial hemp comes from the same plant as marijuana but contains low levels of the psychoactive drug compound tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, that makes marijuana popular.
However, federal regulations treat industrial hemp similar to marijuana, forcing Indiana to seek federal approval before farmers grow the crop.
Waltz said it could be several months before Indiana receives a response, though Waltz notes in his letters that federal farming legislation enacted in February encourages the development of hemp as an industrial product.
Hemp can be made into rope, clothing, linen, fuel and other items.
State Sen. Karen Tallian, D-Ogden Dunes, co-sponsored Senate Enrolled Act 357 permitting the cultivation of industrial hemp in Indiana under the guidance of the state seed commissioner and subject to federal regulations.
She said the state's history as a key hemp production area during World War II, especially Newton and Jasper counties, could lead growers and manufacturers once again to rely on Hoosiers for industrial hemp.
"This could be the biggest jobs bill all session," Tallian said.
The industrial hemp legislation passed the House, 92-6, the Senate, 45-0, and was signed into law March 26 by Gov. Mike Pence.