Indiana lawmakers are not being asked to legalize marijuana, but they are being asked to redefine marijuana.
An Elkhart manufacturer is at the forefront of efforts to assign industrial hemp a separate legal status than its cannabis cousin—marijuana; and to legalize the growing of industrial hemp in Indiana.
“My understanding is you can’t tell the difference between the industrial hemp and marijuana when it’s being grown, so that’s why law enforcement would rather not have it legal,” said FlexForm CEO Gregg Baumbaugh.
FlexForm Technologies uses natural fibers (including hemp) to create lighter, more environmentally friendly interior parts for the auto industry, that offer an alternative to those made of fiberglass or plastic.
“Obviously, there’s very little, very small amount of THC content in industrial hemp. If somebody’s going to smoke that the only thing they’re going to get is a nasty headache,” said Baumbaugh.
Baumbaugh testified before the Indiana Senate Agriculture Committee in favor of SB 357 last week about the difficulty it has obtaining its raw materials. “We get it either from Southeast Asia or Europe, a little bit from Canada,” said Baumbaugh. “We spend anywhere up to a million dollars on logistics annually.”
FlexForm feels it would be in a better position to grow if hemp could be home grown in Indiana.
“All I know is we use it to make products like this and it just would be much better for us economically if it was grown domestically versus us having to import it from foreign sources,” said Baumbaugh.
SB 357 was passed by the Indiana State Senate 48 to 0 on Monday night, giving the bill plenty of momentum as it heads to the house.
Even if SB 357 makes it all the way through the Indiana General Assembly, the federal government would have the final say on whether hemp farming will be allowed.
Some see the U.S. government’s stance on hemp production easing in the latest version of the farm bill. Officials in the State of Kentucky predict they’ll issue hemp growing licenses by the end of 2014, as farmers there look for a substitute for tobacco.