Senate joins House in passing Indiana cannabis oil bill

Updated 2/5/2018 5:13 PM

INDIANAPOLIS -- The Indiana Legislature is poised to allow anyone to purchase and use a cannabis-derived extract believed to have therapeutic benefits, following a key vote by the state Senate on Monday.

Cannabidiol, or CBD, is derived from marijuana and hemp, though the substance, typically sold as an oil, lacks enough of the main psychoactive component THC to get high.

Lawmakers approved a law last year allowing those with severe forms of epilepsy to purchase and possess CBD. But the law conflicted with an earlier industrial hemp law approved by the Legislature, and no sooner had it gone into effect than state excise police cracked down on the sale of CBD.

That led Republican Gov. Eric Holcomb to ask legislators to clarify the law this year. The measures approved by the House and Senate would strip away the lion share of limitations and restrictions that currently apply to the sale of CBD.

"The point I leave you with is this: It's already legal - we're just letting other people use it," GOP Indianapolis Sen. Mike Young, who sponsored the bill, said during floor debate.

The measure passed the Senate Monday on a 35-13 vote; a similar measure approved last week by the House sailed through on a 93-0 vote.

In the realm of marijuana policy, the proposals amount to little more than baby steps. But in a conservative state like Indiana, the approval of the CBD bills mark a major shift in policy over a short period of time.

It comes after the House last month approved a resolution calling for a legislative study committee to research the possibility of legalizing medical marijuana, which 29 other states have already done.

That's still a long ways off in Indiana. And many conservative lawmakers are still opposed to the idea of loosening CBD oil restrictions.

"I worry about the dosage, about the frequency," said Republican Sen. Jean Leising, a former nurse from Oldenburg.

Both CBD bills, as written, bring them in line with hemp-related provisions that were included in the 2014 federal farm bill, supporters contend. That was done to ease concerns of some, who worried Indiana was getting ahead of federal law when it comes to CBD.

"There's nothing wrong with this," said Young. "I think it's about time ... that we finally make this a legal drug for the citizens of Indiana."

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