With the legalization of hemp at the federal level with the passage of the 2018 Farm Bill, it wasn’t long before a new industry based on the increasing popularity of cannabidiol began to take root across the country. But the growth of that industry is at risk in Indiana and Texas, where bans on hemp flower threaten the livelihoods of farmers and small business owners alike.
Under the Farm Bill, states were authorized to enact regulatory plans governing hemp agriculture and commerce. Lawmakers in some states, prodded by the law enforcement community, decided to prohibit possession and commerce of smokable hemp flower. Police and prosecutors argued that the lack of an easy way to differentiate hemp flower from other forms of cannabis would make laws against marijuana unenforceable.
Indiana Ban Now In Effect
In Indiana, a ban on smokable hemp flower included in its regulations was challenged in court, and in September 2019 a federal judge issued a preliminary injunction putting that part of the state’s regulations on hold. But in July, the Seventh Circuit of the U.S. Court of Appeals reversed the injunction. With that ruling, Indiana’s ban went into effect on Thursday, making possession and delivery of smokable hemp a misdemeanor offense.
“We are pleased that the appeals court upheld Indiana’s criminal prohibition on the manufacture and possession of smokable hemp,” Indiana Attorney General Curtis Hill said in a release after the court’s decision. “The court has rightly recognized Indiana’s authority to enforce this law.”
Justin Swanson, the president of the Midwest Hemp Council, filed the suit against the state on behalf of the trade group. He told High Times in a telephone interview that with the ban now in effect, many in Indiana’s nascent hemp industry are stuck with product that is now illegal to sell.
“The seventh circuit [decision] was a mixed bag for the plaintiffs,” he said. “It did reaffirm the fact that the state doesn’t have the authority to interfere with interstate transportation of hemp and hemp products, which is a win for out-of-state companies and farmers shipping through Indiana. But it does nothing to help the farmers here and the small businesses in Indiana.”
Luke Meyers, the director of sales for Agrozen Life Sciences and Urban Daze Hemp, a supplier of agricultural goods and services for the industry, said that he is disappointed by the decision.
“It is very sad to see a state that is known for its agriculture fighting so hard against a crop that is federally legal,” Meyers wrote in an email. “On top of that, by doing so, the state is saying they are okay with not allowing something that could potentially bring thousands of jobs and opportunities to Indiana, at a time when the entire country needs them the most.”
Ban Now In Force In Texas
In Texas, the state health department issued a ban on smokable hemp that went into effect last week. Sam Alvez, the manager of the 7th Heaven Smoke Shop in Killeen, Texas, told local media that his clientele uses hemp flower therapeutically.
“Our customers always tell us how much CBD changes their lives,” Alvez said. “They sleep better, their knees don’t hurt — they’re taking medicine away, that’s what they’re doing.”
With the ban, he added, a hefty portion of his revenue has been put in jeopardy.
“This is likely to cut our business by 50% maybe — we’re looking at a good 50%. I personally don’t think they know what they’re doing,” referring to Texas lawmakers. “They legalized it, but now they’re taking it back. I don’t understand that part of it.”
In Indiana, Swanson of the Midwest Hemp Council said that he believes the legislature should change the law that will likely clog courts with hemp flower possession cases. He also believes that the will is there. It just needs to be acted on.
“I think there’s a lot of appetite to find a fix for it once and for all,” he said. “This has been dragging out in the courts for over a year and a half and ultimately, we need to identify leaders in the statehouse who are willing to stick up for farmers in Indiana.”