When the state Legislature allowed a Senate committee to hear testimony on an Indiana medical cannabis-related bill, enthusiasts saw some hope. The attempt would create a pilot program that would allow some children with epilepsy to be treated with hemp oil derived from marijuana plants. It’s a far cry from a comprehensive medical cannabis program, but to supporters, it marked a momentous shift after years of medical marijuana-related bills fading in the Senate with no hearing.
Indiana is among the last states to forbid even the use of cannabis extracts that are low in THC and high in cannabidiol, or CBD, a compound in the plant that studies suggest may help reduce epileptic seizures. Although federal law still considers cannabis illegal, more than half of U.S. states have legalized full-scale medical cannabis for the therapy of certain disorders. Eight other states and Washington, D.C., have legalized recreational marijuana.
There are more than ten Indiana bills that have been proposed this session related to medical cannabis in some way. However, advocates say the best chance of making any headway in the conservative state is by pushing for passage of a law that would allow for limited access to CBD extracts. Maggie Ellinger-Locke of the Marijuana Policy Project said, “It’s not a secret that more conservative states are a little more reluctant to go down this path than left-leaning, bluer states. It’s not an uncommon situation.”
Republican state Senator Blake Doriot, a co-author of the epilepsy bill whose adult son suffered from seizures for about a year and a half as a child, teared up in an interview with The Associated Press while talking about the fear his family lived with during that period. Doriot stated, “My wife’s mother was killed in a car accident and my sister was murdered. The epilepsy was worse than those. The pure terror, you don’t know, it’s totally out of your control.” Doriot said his son, who is now 18 and has been seizure free for more than ten years, likely would not have benefited from CBD oil. However, he said he sees its value if it can help children who suffer from sometimes hundreds of seizures every day. He also stressed that he has no public stance on the merits of full-scale medical cannabis.
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