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House panel backs bill seeking to boost industrial hemp crop

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) – An Indiana House committee has approved a bill lawmakers say will help speed up the federal approval process to grow industrial hemp in Indiana.

House Agriculture Committee members unanimously passed a proposal Thursday that would specify the exemption of industrial hemp from the state’s marijuana laws.

A non-intoxicating cousin of marijuana, hemp is used for many legal products including clothing and oil. It cannot be grown under federal law without permission.

The proposal comes in the wake of an Indiana law passed last year that legalized the cultivation and processing of industrial hemp once federal officials approve.

Bill co-sponsor Republican Rep. William Friend of Macy says the state’s application for federal approval is still pending and he hopes the clarification will speed up the process.