By Stan Maddux
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Commercial production of hemp in Indiana can now go high on the hog.
USDA has approved Indiana’s plan for allowing farmers to grow and process the cousin of marijuana strictly for sale on the open market.
Don Robison, seed administrator of the Office of Indiana State Chemist (OISC), said the only strings attached are obtaining a license to grow and process hemp and meeting a few basic requirements.
To get a license, growers must raise at least one acre of hemp outdoors or a minimum 2,000 square feet of hemp indoors. There’s also a background check and $750 state licensing fee.
Aside from that, for the most part, “they’re good to go,” Robison said.
Robison said applications will start being accepted by his office, based at Purdue University, before December for the 2021 growing season.
Until now, hemp production in Indiana was legal only if the crop was tied to research by a university. The crop was allowed to be sold commercially once the research was completed, Robison said.
Robison said 283 licenses to produce hemp for research were issued in the state last year but a number of interested growers chose to wait to see if the plan would be approved.
“I would be surprised if we didn’t have one and a half to two times the licenses next year,” he said.
Indiana’s 81-page plan includes strategies for testing to make sure THC levels in hemp are at the bare minimum before harvest and how to respond if THC was typical for the amount found in marijuana.
Robison said any mind-altering hemp would be destroyed or cut down then laid on ground for 14 days to allow THC levels to diminish. After the two week period expires, he said the hemp could then be sold only for fiber.
Indiana is the 29th state with USDA-approved hemp plans. Plans for other states like Michigan and Illinois were also recently endorsed by USDA. The agency is presently working with 12 other states on their plans.
In response, the first USDA-certified hemp testing laboratory for Indiana opened in Carmel. Agrozen Labs also received Schedule I Cannabis Testing certification from the U.S Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).
“Our hemp testing process and analytical equipment are managed by a pharmaceutical scientist with more than three decades of experience and our lab can now produce consistent and reliable results for farmers, extractors, formulators and finished goods suppliers,” said Brian Schroeder, co-founder and CEO for Agrozen Life Sciences, the parent company of Agrozen Labs.
“Agrozen Life Sciences has built their laboratory with full transparency to the state chemist while hitting important milestones such as obtaining a DEA Schedule I registration,” said Carrie Leach, quality assurance director for OISC.
Robison said he expects commercial hemp in Indiana to be no more than a specialty crop, especially for farmers with small patches of ground not suited well enough for traditional use.
Despite growing popularity of products made from hemp like CBD oil, Robison said supply is greater than demand presently so more uses for hemp need to be developed to help future growth.
He said the research tied presently to current producers will help commercial producers in areas like pest control and how best to fertilize and water their crop. “Even at the maximum, I think it’s going to be a niche crop,” Robison said.