By: NC Senator Brent Jackson
North Carolina is not alone in our current debate about the legality of smokable hemp. Other states are presently working on similar legislation, while others have passed laws that have restricted different aspects of the hemp industry thus far. Indiana is one of the states that passed a bill similar to the 2019 NC Farm Act. Their law (SEA 516) criminalizes the manufacture, finance, delivery and possession of smokable hemp.
Earlier this summer, members of the hemp industry sued the state of Indiana in U.S. District Court, challenging the constitutionality of their state law’s smokable hemp ban. Their argument was that the enacted ban was preempted by federal law.
The hemp groups then moved for a preliminary injunction that would temporarily halt the enforcement of the ban until the suit has been decided. The court granted this request and has since prohibited the State of Indiana from enforcing criminal penalties for the manufacture, financing, delivery, or possession of smokable hemp.
Although this injunction does not mark the end or final decision of the lawsuit, it is our belief that it has answered a lot of outstanding questions regarding the intent of the 2018 Federal Farm Bill. The court stated that “the 2018 Farm Bill’s expansion of the federal definition of hemp and removal of all low-THC hemp from the federal list of controlled substances evinces a clear congressional objective to legalize all forms of low-THC hemp, including “smokable hemp.”
It is my belief that this order has made clear that Congress and President Trump had every intention of legalizing all hemp products including smokable hemp throughout the United States.
It is my hope that we will use this early judicial decision as a way to understand what can happen if hemp is allowed to be classified as marijuana and possibly of future legal action in NC if we pass legislation the restricts a viable and legal agricultural commodity.