Business leaders and academics met Monday in Noblesville for a symposium on hemp, part of an ongoing effort to legitimize and kick start the crop in Indiana.
Companies set up booths showing off hemp-based items like lotion, clothing, pet products and even a concrete-like structural support.
But despite legislators legalizing the growing of hemp last year, it hasn’t taken off.
The Indiana Hemp Industries Association hosted four speakers who talked about the many obstacles preventing hemp from going mainstream in the state. Among them is a complex set of regulations and permissions farmers have to get through to grow the plant.
George Blankenbaker is president of Real Hemp and a member of the INHIA’s board of directors. He says another challenge is education. Too many people, he says, still equate hemp with marijuana.
“It’s the same plant, the cannabis sativa, but it’s like the difference between a German Shepard and a poodle. Very different animals, so in this case very different plants,” Blankenbaker says.
Kevin Gibson, professor of botany and plant pathology at Purdue University, presented research from the school on how the plant fares in Indiana soil. He says while summer floodingruined many of their test crops, those that survived gave apromising yield.
And Gibson says while he can’t predict what will happen during the legislative session, he remains hopeful.
“There’s certainly interest in it. And from a scientific perspective, and from an agricultural perspective, it looks like there’s potential for it in the state,” Gibson says.
Blankenbaker says the public perception problem often rears its head in the political arena, where he says politicians have been supportive in private but too worried to publicly champion the cause due to its connection with marijuana.