Federal Judge in Indiana Declares Smokable Hemp Ban Unconstitutional

A federal judge has ruled that it was unconstitutional for Indiana to ban smokable hemp on the grounds that the state cannot easily differentiate smokable hemp from marijuana.

This ruling was delivered after seven hemp wholesalers in Indiana and the Midwest Hemp Council went to court to challenge the smokable hemp ban passed into law in July. The plaintiffs contended that since the 2018 Farm Bill legalized all forms of hemp, it was illegal for Indiana to single out smokable hemp and ban it.

Smokable hemp has emerged as the most sought-after hemp product in the industry, but the law enforcement community in different states has complained that the appearance and smell of smokable hemp is so similar to that of marijuana that it was nearly impossible to enforce the law.

In her ruling, the U.S. District Judge Sarah Evan Barker wrote that the confusion on how to tell hemp apart from marijuana doesn’t mean that Indiana has the right to declare some forms of hemp to be controlled substances.

She added that the need to adjust how law enforcement officers are trained and how they operate in light of the new developments within the marijuana and hemp industries isn’t sufficient ground for the state to enact a law that is unconstitutional.

The federal judge then issued an immediate injunction against the implementation of the ban. She explained that it wasn’t necessary for the plaintiffs to wait and quantify how much they lose once the ban is enforced before they sue the state.

The judge also agreed with the plaintiffs that by banning smokable hemp, the state of Indiana was interfering with the intent of Congress to legalize interstate trade in hemp. This is because any smokable hemp passing through Indiana from another state would be seized as an illegal shipment and the drivers would face criminal charges if the ban is in force.

The fact that Indiana was coming to terms with the new definition of marijuana by allocating additional funds to purchase equipment to test for THC was not lost on the judge. She said this meant that the state had a solution to the problem which prompted them to issue the ban in the first place.

This ruling is notable because many other states, such as Texas and Louisiana, have also enacted laws banning smokable hemp. North Carolina will also enforce a similar ban mid next year. While the Indiana ruling only applies in Indiana, other states in the same situation may also see similar lawsuits in the hope that the bans there could also be overturned.

One would imagine that hemp industry players like Hemptown USA and HTC Extraction Systems (TSX.V: HTC) are pleased by the judgment of the federal court in Indiana since the ban was going to encumber the growth of the hemp industry.

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