Senate panel backs legalization of CBD oil with small amount of THC

An Indiana Senate panel on Tuesday voted to legalize the sale and use of cannabidiol oil, a non-psychoactive cannabis compound.

Senate Bill 52, which would legalize oil that contains 0.3 percent or less tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, passed the Corrections and Criminal Law Committee 7-2. THC is the part of cannabis plant that causes users to get “high,” but the percentage under the bill would be well under the amount needed to cause mind-altering effects.

“It will be open to anyone who wants to purchase it, with epilepsy or not,” said state Sen. Mike Young, R-Indianapolis, explaining how the bill is an expansion of a law passed in 2017 that created a registry to allow those with intractable epilepsy to use the substance.

Young’s bill removes the registry component. It requires the products to be labeled and have a certification about its ingredients from a lab. 

Young said cannabidiol “doesn’t appear to be harmful.”

“The evidence indicates you can’t overdose on it, but it has a great deal of scientific benefit to resolve a lot of people’s problems,” Young said. He said he has heard from people who want to use the substance to eliminate pain from cancer and to ease their dependence on opioids.

CBD oil contains much less THC than marijuana. While marijuana THC potency has been on the rise, it typically ranges from less than 15 percent to 30 percent, according to recent news reports.

The bill also includes protections for workers who fail a drug test because of their use of THC. Sen. Rodric Bray, R-Martinsville, said he was concerned about that provision because "it’s very difficult to discern whether that is really the truth or not," or whether the person was actually using marijuana. Young said he would work on that section of the bill as it moves through the approval process.

No one spoke against the bill on Tuesday, but several groups have registered opposition to it in the past.

The issue came to a head earlier this year when Indiana Attorney General Curtis Hill cracked down on the sale of cannabidiol oil despite a law passed in 2017 meant to authorize its use by patients with intractable epilepsy.

Hill said because marijuana is a Schedule 1 controlled substance under federal law, cannabidiol is, too.

On Tuesday, Senate Minority Leader Tim Lanane, D-Anderson, said the bill was “common sense.”

The bill heads to the full Senate for possible amendments and a final vote.

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