From MHC President Justin Swanson: Update on Craft Hemp Flower Litigation in Indiana

Executive Summary: In June 2019, the Midwest Hemp Council joined small business owners in Indiana to challenge the criminalization of craft hemp flower in federal court. The U.S. District Court ruled in favor of the hemp industry and prohibited the enforcement of the statute criminalizing the production, sale and possession of craft hemp flower. This favorable ruling was appealed to the Seventh Circuit. Unfortunately, the Seventh Circuit inexplicably ignored the industry’s strongest argument and the one on which the U.S. District Court relied on to issue its injunction against the state—individual states do not have the authority to pick and choose what is legal coming off of the hemp plant, so long as the product is below .3% THC. This unfavorable order came out in July 2020 and resulted in the state being permitted to enforce the criminalization of craft hemp flower in Indiana. On Monday, May 24, 2021, after a nearly two-year battle in the federal court systems, plaintiffs voluntarily dismissed the case without prejudice. This means that if the regulatory or enforcement environment changes in Indiana, the door is still open if there is an interest in refiling the case.

Current Legal Status of Craft Hemp Flower in Indiana: Craft hemp flower is free to travel “in continuous transit” through Indiana so long as a Hoosier farmer didn’t produce it, a Hoosier small business owner didn’t sell it and a Hoosier consumer didn’t possess it. Yes, you read that correctly. It is the current policy of Indiana that out-of-state farmers and business owners are free to profit from one of the most lucrative markets in the hemp industry, while Hoosiers are shut out of the market. We will continue to engage and educate lawmakers, regulators and other stakeholders on why the craft hemp flower market is so crucial to farmers and the development of the whole hemp plant economy. The Indiana General Assembly is becoming more educated on this issue as reflected in HB 1224 this year, which passed out of the House with bipartisan support 69-28 and would have responsibly reopened the market to Hoosiers. Unfortunately, the bill stalled in Senate committee and did not receive a vote. We are looking forward to building off of this momentum during the 2022 legislative session.
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