hemp field
RECOGNIZE HEMP: You may see isolated fields of hemp in Indiana this year. Any hemp raised in 2019 is under a research agreement with a university. Look for it to be more widespread in 2020.

Where hemp could be headed in Indiana

Preparing infrastructure to regulate and market hemp takes time.

When the 2018 Farm Bill legalized the sale of industrial hemp, some people excited about growing hemp in Indiana were ready to book seed and plant in 2019. They soon found out that unless they worked with a researcher under a license, they would still be on the outside looking in this year.

That may change in 2020 if everything falls into place. Don Robison, seed administrator with the Office of Indiana State Chemist and Seed Commissioner, has barely had time to take a breath since Congress passed the farm bill. He’s one of the people fielding questions about what’s legal and what’s not when it comes to producing and marketing hemp.

Here’s the second part of Indiana Prairie Farmer’s exclusive interview with Robison, which outlines where hemp production may likely go in Indiana in the future. Read the first part of the interview here.

Are hemp oil and cannabis oil from marijuana, which was legalized for medical use in Indiana in 2018, the same thing? Hemp seed oil comes from the hemp grain and is a cold press process. It is legal in Indiana as a food-grade oil. CBD oil from hemp plants is legal based on last year’s legislation. CBD oil that comes from marijuana is not legal, as it would have too high of tetrahydrocannabinol content. THC is the psychoactive component of cannabis. To be legal, the hemp plant and finished product must have less than 0.3% THC by dry weight. 

Some people think that since the 2018 Farm Bill legalized hemp, farmers can grow it, whether the state has approved it or not. Is that right? No, that isn’t correct. A field of hemp grown without a research license is the same as growing marijuana. The Indiana law needs to be updated to match up to the federal law. That’s what the Legislature attempted to address this spring.

Once the Legislature acts, administrative rules to regulate the new crop must be put into place.  Finally, the governor and state chemist and seed commissioner need to send a plan to USDA for approval.

So will anyone be able to grow hemp in 2020? Once the process I just outlined is completed, the crop will be commercialized, and anyone can grow with a license and a clean background check. That won’t be until late this year or early next year, based on what we’re hearing out of USDA. 

We’re telling people to plan for 2020 as the first commercial crop, assuming the Legislature took appropriate action. If not, 2020 could be another “grow for research” year. It’s important for people to remember that even if it’s a go in 2020, growing without a license is the same as growing marijuana.

Will marketing of hemp be regulated? The actual finished products will be regulated by those other than OISC. We regulate the grower and handler-processor-transporter. For one year after the federal government approves our state plan, there will still also be a research option that we will regulate.

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