By Alex Eady
The Indiana Hemp Industries Association wants to make industrial hemp a billion-dollar industry over the next two years, but its greatest obstacle may be overcoming stigma.
The association announced its legislative priorities for 2018 at the statehouse Monday.
Executive Director of the IHIA Jessica Scott says the organization’s priority is to promote the hemp industry as an economic opportunity to support Indiana agriculture.
“I know that the backbone of our economy is our farmers, it’s our food system and our innovation to take what we can grow and make it into incredible products,” Scott says. “Industrial hemp just beautifully supports that entire model of what our economy is based off of.”
Indiana is one of a handful of states that allows hemp cultivation for commercial purposes, but federal laws mean it can only be used for research.
Vice President of Bose Public Affairs Group Justin Swanson says Indiana is lagging behind other states when it comes to hemp cultivation, in part because of the stigma often associated with hemp.
“Industrial hemp is not marijuana and it’s time for state policies and actions to reflect this fact.” Swanson says. “In fact, there’s a growing momentum at the federal level to finally remove industrial hemp from the Controlled Substances Act after almost 70 years of being misaligned with marijuana.”
Purdue University scientist Janna Beckerman says she hopes to see Indiana build upon the university’s research to help sustain Hoosier agriculture.
“Without the opportunity to grow the hemp, we won’t have the opportunity to expand this research, and by not having that opportunity it ends up constricting innovation instead of developing it,” Beckerman says.
The NHIA wants state and federal lawmakers to support bills that would expand the commercial hemp industry.