Farmers, other business owners eager for Indiana hemp law to take effect

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MARTINSVILLE – Some think it could be the next big thing in agriculture, leading to big money for Indiana businesses.

But the debate over hemp hasn’t come without some controversy.

New laws could soon allow hemp to be homegrown here in the Hoosier state, but it’s not a done deal yet.

“There are so many different opportunities with hemp, so many different products that can be created,” said Jamie Campbell with the Indiana Hemp Industries Association.

“You can make 25,000 different things from hemp,” said Justin Petty, who co-founded a business that sells hemp apparel. “(Everything from) guitar bags to hemp fiber shirts, even hemp paper.”

But Petty says hemp could mean so much more here in the Hoosier state.

He started a business out in California that sells t-shirts made from hemp, and he thinks it could mean big money here in his home state of Indiana.

But Campbell and Petty say, until recently, the law has really held them back, along with concerns about the plant’s similarity to marijuana.

“The biggest problem we’ve had is people not understanding the difference between hemp and marijuana,” said Campbell. “The big difference is, hemp is not a drug.”

“You could have a garden snake and a rattle snake but both snakes are not anything alike,” said state Sen. Richard Young, D-Milltown, who co-authored the new law allowing some hemp to be grown here in Indiana.

But it’s a plan that still has to be approved the DEA.

“It’s long past due and it’s something that Indiana can be at the forefront of in ag production moving forward, if the federal government ever gets their act together with this thing,” said the bill’s co-author, state Sen. Carlin Yoder, R-Millbury.

“We’re waiting on that approval and until we get that we cannot go forward,” said Larry Nees, seed administrator with the Indiana seed commissioner’s office. “We’re gearing up to try get some rules developed to go along with this law to more specify what’s going to happen and how it would happen in terms of licensing.”

“We can buy these (products) online, you can buy them at Meijer … but they’re all made in China, they’re all made in Canada,” said Campbell. “Why is that? We’re an ag state. Why isn’t it done here?”

So in the meantime, they keep making their case, trying to change minds. This weekend, they’re screening a documentary about hemp at Fountain Square as part of hemp history week.

“We can become a leader in the green industry, in the world, if we do this the right way,” said Petty. “We’re working to at least give it a chance because we think industries like this deserve that.”