IN Focus: AG Curtis Hill on cannabis oil controversy
INDIANAPOLIS – Indiana Attorney General Curtis Hill on Tuesday clarified the state’s law regarding the use of cannabidiol (CBD) oil that has led to confusion.
Hill told FOX59’s Matt Smith that CBD oil is illegal to sell or possess in Indiana–with the only exception being people with epilepsy conditions specifically outlined in legislation. “CBD is a derivative of the marijuana plant, and by definition is still marijuana, and by definition is still a schedule 1 drug which is still unlawful under the current state of the law,” Hill told Smith.
Hill said this means the oil is subject to seizure from retail outlets that sell it. That leaves an unanswered question: How will people who are lawfully allowed to use CBD obtain it?
State lawmakers passed a bill—later signed into law by Gov. Eric Holcomb in April—that allowed people with treatment-resistant epilepsy to use CBD as part of a state registry.
The law requires that products containing CBD, an oil derived from marijuana, must contain less than 0.3 of THC, the active ingredient in cannabis.
Advocates of the treatment said it can help lessen the severity of seizures—and studies appear to bear that out. Parents whose children have treatment-resistant epilepsy voiced their support for CBD oil during legislative hearings.
Earlier this year, the Alcohol and Tobacco Commission announced a moratorium on the confiscation of CBD products from area stores. The announcement came after excise police cited stores for selling CBD products.
Even after the moratorium was announced, excise police warned one store and cited another for potential violations. A spokeswoman said those incidents were “issued in error.”
However, the cases illustrated how confusion over the law has led to difficulties in enforcing it.
Even state law enforcement disagrees on the legality of CBD products. Excise police thought the new law made CBD products used for non-seizure purposes a crime; Indiana State Police said a 2014 law removed industrial hemp products from the state’s controlled substance statute, making CBD products legal.
Earlier this month, parents of a southern Indiana girl said DCS threatened to take away their daughter because they used CBD oil to treat her seizures instead of using what doctors at Riley Hospital for Children at IU Health had prescribed.
Rep. Mark Messmer, R-Jasper, intervened on the family’s behalf and said the new law needs to be clarified. He said the state’s response was “heavy-handed” and an “overreaction.”
In response to Hill’s opinion, Rep. Jim Lucas says he will introduce legislation to legalize CBD oil.
Meanwhile, other groups continue to push for medical marijuana in the state, which CBD oil would not classify as. The Indiana American Legion wants medical marijuana for use by veterans as a treatment option, and Indiana NORML put up this billboard in Indianapolis.
CBD Oil Now Legal in Ohio
On July 30, 2019, Governor Mike DeWine signed Ohio Senate Bill (SB) 57 legalizing the possession, purchase or sale of hemp and hemp products. The bill included an emergency provision making it effective immediately, which means that school districts are likely to see an increase in requests for administration of cannabidiol (CBD) oil, a hemp derivative. School districts should be aware of Ohio’s legalization of hemp and hemp products and how the new provisions impact the use of derivatives like CBD oil.
Many people associate CBD oil with marijuana, but SB 57 distinguishes the two by defining “hemp” and “hemp products,” and affirmatively excluding those items from the statutory definition of “marijuana.” “Hemp” is now defined as, “the plant Cannabis sativa L. and any part of that plant, including the seeds thereof and all derivatives, extracts, cannabinoids, isomers, acids, salts, and salts of isomers, whether growing or not, with a delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) concentration of not more than .3% on a dry weight basis.” Hemp and marijuana both come from cannabis plants, but hemp plants have a very low concentration of THC. Marijuana has higher levels of THC, which is the active ingredient in marijuana that has the potential to create a “high” or intoxicating effect.
The new provisions define “hemp products” as any products made with hemp and containing .3% or less THC, including “cosmetics, personal care products, dietary supplements or food intended for animal or human consumption, cloth, cordage, fiber, fuel, paint, paper, particleboard, and any other product containing one or more cannabinoids derived from hemp, including cannabidiol.” The language specifically excludes hemp and hemp products from the statutory definition of “drug,” and removes THC found in hemp and hemp products from Ohio’s list of Schedule I controlled substances.
As a result of hemp and hemp product legalization, the Ohio State Board of Pharmacy released a statement Tuesday, clarifying that in light of the bill, hemp products, including CBD oil now may be sold outside of licensed medical marijuana dispensaries. The Board of Pharmacy also stated that other Ohio Medical Marijuana Control Program (OMMCP) requirements do not apply to the use of hemp and hemp products, including CBD oil. The Board and the Ohio Department of Commerce plan to release future guidance regarding any OMMCP restrictions on licensed dispensaries selling hemp-derived CBD products.
Another important factor is the status of hemp legalization at the federal level. In 2018, the Federal Farm Bill removed hemp from the definition of “marijuana” in the Controlled Substances Act. But in its guidance document titled, “What you need to know (and what we’re working to find out) about products containing cannabis or cannabis-derived compounds, including CBD,” the U.S. Food and Drug Administrations (FDA) notes that CBD oil still is subject to the same laws and requirements as other FDA-regulated products. To date, the FDA only has approved one CBD prescription drug product for treating certain forms of epilepsy, and currently is working to study the overall effects of CBD use. The guidance also highlights that while some products are marketed to add CBD oil to food or label it as a dietary supplement, marketing CBD oil in this manner remains illegal under federal law.
So what’s a district to do? Now that hemp and hemp products like CBD oil are no longer considered “marijuana” or “drugs,” and their possession, purchase and sale are legal, districts should not treat them as illegal substances. Requests for administration of CBD oil to students should be treated the same as any other request for administration of a homeopathic remedy under existing board policies and procedures. Legalization of hemp and hemp products does not prevent the board from setting reasonable standards for administration of medications or other substances within the school setting. Remember, only hemp and hemp products containing THC levels not to exceed .3% are legal. School districts should set reasonable expectations and standards for the use of hemp and hemp product derivatives, as well as for verification that maximum THC levels do not to exceed .3% prior to any product’s approval for use in the school setting.