EDITORIAL: Feds must engage in marijuana, CBD oil debate

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State lawmakers are poised to make CBD oil—a derivative of the cannabis plant—legal for sale and use for all Hoosiers.

The Indiana House and Senate have approved separate but similar bills, which makes it likely lawmakers will work out the details before the session ends in mid-March and send Gov. Eric Holcomb legislation to sign into law.

Despite opposition in the past to most things marijuana-related, this proposal seems a no-brainer. The CBD oil on the market contains little or no THC, the chemical that gives marijuana its euphoric high. So, if people find that CBD oil helps relieve their aches and pains and other ills, it seems logical they should be able to buy and use it.

But like with all things related to pot, it’s not so easy.

The federal government long ago classified marijuana and its derivatives as Schedule 1 narcotics and banned them from production and sale—and those rules remain in place. That means state laws that legalize CBD oil run afoul of federal law, a conflict that puts police, prosecutors, doctors and even patients in difficult positions.

We’ve seen that play out in Indiana, where lawmakers had already made CBD oil legal for use by epilepsy patients, for whom CBD oil has been found to help relieve seizures. Still, Indiana Attorney General Curtis Hill ruled that, under federal law, the oil can’t be sold in the state, which led law enforcement to clear it from store shelves.

That’s what led the Legislature to start crafting a new law, one meant to make it clear CBD oil can be sold, purchased and used in the state. And we support that effort—in theory. But it won’t solve the larger problem and it could create new ones.

As long as the federal government classifies marijuana derivatives as Schedule 1 narcotics, the legal status of CBD products in Indiana will remain murky. Perhaps more important, CBD products will not undergo the research, testing and regulation that would ensure they are safe and help patients understand how best to use them. That is a problem—one that only the federal government can solve.

The debate, of course, is about much more than CBD oil. Thirty states and the District of Columbia have legalized marijuana use in some form—in the face of the federal ban. And even in Indiana, the opposition to marijuana legalization has appeared to soften.

Meanwhile, federal officials have tied the hands of researchers and regulators who could study the safety and efficacy of these products. It’s time for the federal government to step back into the marijuana fray and, at the least, create a structure through which products like CBD oil can be properly regulated.

Only then can action taken by Indiana and other states be truly meaningful.•

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