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Indiana lawmakers tour Purdue hemp farm

LAFAYETTE, Ind. (WISH) – Indiana lawmakers spent Monday discussing a rather controversial subject: industrial hemp. 

It looks like marijuana but is a different type of cannabis, according to experts in a Purdue University hemp project. Industrial hemp will not get you high. In a summer study, lawmakers are talking about growing and producing this stuff across the state.

Since 2015, Leah Sandler has cared for cannabis plants at Meigs Farm, part of the Throckmorton Purdue Agricultural Center. State lawmakers toured the farm Monday. 

As part of the university’s hemp project, Sandler’s goal is figure out through research how to best grow hemp in Indiana. A graduate student, she said Monday, “From my three summers of research, if you can get in in May and you don’t have heavy rains, it will establish well.” 

Ronald Turco heads Purdue’s department of agronomy, the science of soil management and crop production. He said his team provides research to lawmakers. He heard some concerns from lawmakers Monday.

“Worries about comparison to marijuana,” Turco said. “We’ve shown them how we’re different. How you do things different. How hemp is a different material and how it’s grown versus marijuana.”

There’s no doubt you can use hemp for things such as paper, animal bedding or eating the seeds. But, Turco said, the other question he hears: Is Indiana hungry for industrial hemp? 

“We think there’s a market for it, but It just has to develop,” the agronomist said. 

A member of the summer study committee, state Sen. Randy Head, a Logansport Republican, said the Indiana Department of Agriculture is not set up as a regulatory agency, which would have to be figured out before industrial hemp can be grown in the state.

Head also said money to fund regulatory efforts might have to come from the state budget.

Head, who is the assistant minority leader-communications, said he would like to see lawmakers create a state system similar to Kentucky’s. “Anyone that wants to grow, they have to have a permit issued by their state government. They have to have GPS coordinates for their growing operations so if the police want to come in and inspect, they know exactly where to go. Then, anything not being grown at those GPS coordinates is illegal.”

Indiana Prosecuting Attorneys Council said they’re neutral about industrial hemp in Indiana. The council is an independent state judicial branch agency created by state law.

David Powell, executive director of the council, said, “Our major concern is: Can it be regulated? Is it feasible? Does it make sense for Indiana? What’s it look like? Our biggest concern is the only real market in place for marijuana is the illicit drug market. We just want to make sure safeguards are in place.” 

The people who work the hemp farm tell me they’re going to continue to work with lawmakers.