Forget what you think you know about the utility of the marijuana plant. If we can all stop snickering for a moment and clear our heads of the visions of smoke-clouded VW vans or dorm rooms, the industrial hemp from marijuana plants is looking more and more like a viable cash crop for the Hoosier state.
Indiana's Seed Commissioner Robert Waltz certainly sees the potential value. He's pushing the U.S. Department of Agriculture and U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration for federal approval to grow hemp in Indiana, offering Hoosier farmers another crop alternative for the state's fertile soils.
State and local authorities should join with Waltz in pushing for this approval, which could lead to the feedstock for rope, clothing, linen and fuel production made possible by the hemp crop.
We're not talking about the leafy green stuff some folks illegally smoke to get high. Though industrial hemp comes from the same plant, it contains only low levels of the psychoactive drug that gives marijuana its kick.
The Indiana Legislature already has tilled the field in preparation for hemp production in the state.
State Sen. Karen Tallian, D-Ogden Dunes, co-sponsored the law permitting hemp cultivation under the guidance of the seed commissioner's office.
History is on the Hoosier state's side. Indiana was a key hemp production state during World War II, Tallian argues, especially in rural Newton and Jasper counties.
Tallian sees the potential for jobs and commerce that could follow. So do we.
Now it's a waiting game.
Hemp growth is subject to federal regulation beyond the state law permitting its industrial cultivation.
We strongly urge local farmers, agricultural organizations and state and federal lawmakers join in the request to the federal agriculture department and DEA for approval of hemp growth in Indiana.
New industries offering a chance at growing jobs and commerce are hard to come by. Here is an opportunity the Hoosier state should be harvesting.