As Indiana lawmakers consider a bill to legalize the production and sale of hemp, the state House of Representatives approved an amendment allowing people to smoke the flower of the plant.
Currently, low-THC CBD products are legal in Indiana, but there are no clear processes in place to allow local licensed farmers to grow and manufacture the cannabis extract for commercial purposes.
The 2018 Farm Bill legalized hemp on the federal level, but left the responsibility of how to regulate the crop to states. Indiana Senate Bill 516, which aims to create those necessary systems passed a second reading in the House on Monday. The Senate approved the bill in February with a vote of 47 to 1.
To the dismay of many hemp advocates, the original text of SB 516 banned smokeable hemp flower. Law enforcement have expressed concerns about officers’ inability to distinguish it from marijuana flower, which looks and smells similar. But Rep. Jim Lucas (R) proposed a motion amending the bill to allow smokeable hemp. The change was approved by the House in a narrow vote of 49-47, as first reported by TheStatehouseFile.com.
The amended bill now heads to a third reading vote, before which legislators will continue to debate its merits.
“The hemp flower, whether you agree with its medicinal benefits or what not, it’s still the easiest way for Hoosier farmers to enter this really emerging hemp market with the least amount of overhead,” Rep. Christy Stutzman (R) told Indiana Public Media.
Gov. Eric Holcomb (R) has said he is “supportive of efforts to establish a hemp program” and is expected to sign SB 516 into law.
Shawn Hauser is one of the lead authors of the American Hemp Campaign’s model plan for state hemp programs. She told Marijuana Moment in a phone interview that the move to allow hemp flower in Indiana is “a positive development” for the industry, especially as other states work to create their own systems for regulating hemp. A hemp bill in Texas, for example, passed out of committee on Tuesday without allowing smokeable hemp.
Smokeable hemp is a popular product in other countries, Hauser explained, and one that concerns law enforcement because of its likeness to marijuana. “There is still a lot of education happening with enforcement and regulators as to the difference,” she said. “We’re coming out of decades of hemp and marijuana being lumped together, which is why we haven’t been able to grow hemp in the United States for all these years.”
“It is important for hemp and hemp-derived products to be regulated and seen differently than marijuana,” she continued.
Not only are these plants different, but they have historically been consumed for different reasons. “A hemp cigarette and a marijuana cigarette are not used for the same purpose,” Hauser said.
With the right regulations in place—including those covering packaging and labelling—consumers and law enforcement will be better equipped to clearly distinguish between the two products, she said.