MICHIGAN CITY — A hemp processor in Michigan City is expanding, since growing and processing the plant for commercial purposes has gone full throttle in Indiana.

Viobin is putting $6.1 million into its facility at 1700 E. U.S. 12 after tax abatement on the investment was approved by the City Council last week.

Fifteen additional jobs are projected.

“Our team is ready to take the next step toward developing our strong base here in the city,” said Bill Streeter, vice president of corporate finance at Panhandle Milling, the parent company of Viobin.

According to company officials, the expansion includes greater capacity for hemp drying, feed production and processing along with additional equipment.

Viobin opened the facility in 2019 to process industrial hemp into CBD oil for use in lotions, isolates and oils at a time of growth in the popularity of products made from the cousin of marijuana.

“We are carrying on the tradition of manufacturing our products to the highest standards. By having top notch extractions, final products are at optimum quality for consumers," Streeter said.

The decision comes after the U.S. Department of Agriculture recently paved the way for hemp to be grown and processed for sale on the open market statewide by approving Indiana’s plan for regulating commercial production of the plant.

Previously, hemp production in Indiana was legal only if the crop was tied to research by a university, said Don Robison, seed administrator of the Office of the Indiana State Chemist.

The crop was allowed to be sold commercially once the research was completed, he said.

Now, Robison said the only strings attached are obtaining a license to grow and process hemp and meeting a few basic requirements, like growing at least one acre of hemp outdoors or a minimum 2,000 square feet indoors.

There’s also a background check and a $750 state licensing fee.

Aside from that, for the most part, “they’re good to go,” Robison said.

Robison said license applications will start being accepted by his office, based at Purdue University, before December for the 2021 growing season.

Robison said 283 licenses to produce hemp for research were issued in the state last year but a number of interested growers chose to wait to see if USDA would approve the state’s regulatory plan.

“I would be surprised if we didn’t have one and a half to two times the licenses next year,” he said.

The 81-page plan includes strategies for testing to make sure THC levels in hemp are at the bare minimum before harvest, and how to respond if THC was typical for the amount found in marijuana.

Robison said any mind altering hemp would be destroyed or cut down then laid on ground for 14 days to allow THC levels to diminish.

He said the hemp after the two week period expires could then be sold only for fiber.

According to USDA, Indiana is the 29th state with an approved hemp plan.
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