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April 4, 2014

Indiana seeks federal approval for growing hemp

WEST LAFAYETTE (AP) — Indiana's seed commissioner is seeking federal approval for the state's farmers to begin growing industrial hemp under a newly passed state law.

Seed Commissioner Robert Waltz said Thursday that he's asked the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration and the U.S. Department of Agriculture to grant the state permission to allow hemp to be grown for crops and research purposes.

Although the Legislature approved a measure during their recent session allowing hemp to be grown in Indiana, the state still needs the federal agencies' approval.

"We are now in a waiting mode. Without federal approval, nothing will happen," Waltz told The Times of Munster.

Waltz said the approval process could take several months, but he noted in letters he sent last week to the DEA and USDA that federal farming legislation enacted in February encourages the development of hemp as an industrial product.

Hemp is marijuana's non-intoxicating cousin and can be made into rope, clothing, linen, fuel and other items. But federal regulations treat industrial hemp similar to marijuana and it cannot be grown under federal law without permission.

Industrial hemp contains low levels of the psychoactive drug compound tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, that makes marijuana popular among users.

State Sen. Karen Tallian, D-Ogden Dunes, co-sponsored legislation permitting the cultivation of industrial hemp in Indiana under the guidance of the state seed commissioner and subject to federal regulations.

She said Indiana was a key hemp production state during World War II — especially northern Indiana's Newton and Jasper counties. Tallian said that history could lead growers and manufacturers once again to rely on Hoosiers for industrial hemp.

"This could be the biggest jobs bill all session," she said.

The industrial hemp legislation passed the House, 92-6, the Senate, 45-0, and was signed into law March 26 by Gov. Mike Pence.

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