Future of CBD sales still unclear after hours of testimony

The future for cannabidiol, or CBD, oil in Indiana remains unclear after an Indiana senator declined to call for a vote on two bills that would legalize the sale of the substance if certain specifications are met.

The Senate Corrections and Criminal Law Committee heard roughly two hours of testimony Tuesday on Senate Bills 52 and 294, both authored by Sen. Mike Young, R-Indianapolis.

Senate Bill 294 would expand on legislation passed last year that allowed for the sale of CBD containing up to 0.3 percent THC to people on a state registry who have epilepsy. Senate Bill 52 would permit the sale of CBD oil to any Hoosier by any retailer, provided the oil contains no THC, the element in marijuana that causes euphoric sensations.

Young told the committee SB 294 came about as a way of solving a practical problem that arose after the passage of last year’s legislation. Current law regarding CBD oil allows patients with epilepsy to use the substance if they are included on the state registry, but those patients cannot purchase the oil in Indiana. Instead, they must go out of state to purchase CBD oil.

To solve that issue, Young’s bill would allow Indiana retailers to sell CBD oil to people on the registry, though those people would have to produce both a unique bar code and a state-issued identification each time they make a CBD purchase. For its part, the retailer would be required to store CBD oil in a locked case, verify the purchaser is on the registry and record each purchase.

While SB 52 would allow for wider access to CBD oil, the bill would put certain requirements in place to ensure the oil sold for public access contains no THC. Specifically, manufacturers would be required to send a sample of their products to pre-approved laboratories to test for any amount of THC. Once approved, CBD oil containers would include a link that law enforcement could use to ensure the contents of the containers do not include THC.

Prior to hearing testimony on the bills, the committee approved an amendment to SB 52 that would relax certain requirements for out-of-state CBD manufacturers. Specifically, the amendment would not permit out-of-state manufacturers to sell CBD oil with THC in it in Indiana, but those manufacturers also would not be required to destroy substances that contain THC. Indiana manufacturers, however, would have to destroy any CBD oil that tests positive for THC and is intended for sale to the general public.

Testimony during Tuesday’s committee meeting was overwhelmingly in favor of legalizing the use of CBD oil, particularly for medicinal use. Richard Feldman, a former state health commissioner who spoke on behalf of the Indiana Academy of Family Physicians, pointed to anecdotal evidence of CBD oil effectively relieving symptoms of epilepsy, acne, depression and other ailments, as well as helping to wean patients off of prescription opioids.

Though additional research is still necessary to turn that anecdotal evidence into scientific evidence, Feldman told committee members the illegality of CBD oil is unjustified and often irrational. The substance does not cause the high associated with marijuana, he said, but instead has been shown to offer health benefits.

Some Hoosiers did speak against SBs 52 and 294, but said the bills were too restrictive on CBD use. Veterans organizations and parents of children suffering from diseases that could be helped by CBD oil were among those who opposed the bills.

Committee members also raised concerns about Young’s legislation, with Sen. Rod Bray, R-Martinsville, questioning whether the bar code requirement would be too restrictive, especially in light of the registry requirement. Along similar lines, Senate Minority Leader Tim Lanane, D-Anderson, said the requirements imposed under the bills would turn patients using CBD for medicinal purposes into “mini-criminals.”

Lanane’s comments were met with multiple rounds of applause from the audience in the packed Senate chamber. Sen. Susan Glick, R-LaGrange, who was acting as committee chair while Young presented his bills, instructed the audience to remain quiet and hold their comments for their testimony.

Young did not ask for a vote on SBs 52 and 249 on Tuesday to allow time for additional amendments. However, he cautioned committee members that spending a large amount of time on his bills at future meetings could eat into the time the committee could otherwise devote to other legislation during the short session.

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