Cannabidiol bill for epileptic seizures moves closer to becoming law

By Kayla Walker
TheStatehouseFile.com

INDIANAPOLIS — Separate bills to legalize the use of cannabidiol to treat epileptic seizures passed the Indiana House and Senate Thursday.

The House passed Senate Bill 15 by a 94-0 margin while House Bill 1148 cleared the Senate by a 35-13 vote after some members expressed concern about whether the drug can be abused.

Cannabidiol, or CBD is found in the seeds, stalk, and flowers of cannabis plants like hemp and marijuana. CBD has been found to minimize seizures in epileptic patients and has a negligible level of THC, the compound that creates the “high” feeling in marijuana.

“Our goal has always been to give relief to the desperate parents who don’t seem to see any other way to treat their child, and to give them relief from constant epileptic seizures,” said Rep. William Friend, R-Macy.

Rep. William Friend, R-Macy, explaining the bill for cannabidiol treatment for epilepsy, SB 15. The bill passed the House 94-0. Photos by Kayla Walker, TheStatehouseFile.com

Senate Bill 15, authored by Sen. James Tomes, R-Wadesville, Sen. Blake Doriot, R-Goshen, and Sen. Michael Young, R-Indianapolis, requires that the CBD oil used medicinally contains at least 10 percent CBD and 0.3 percent of THC.

Tomes said that the problem with medical marijuana is that there are too many doors open for abusing it, but CBD is not medical marijuana.

“You can smoke 700 acres and all you’re going to get is really red eyes and probably a really sick cold,” Tomes said. “But you’re not going to get a buzz.”

“There has been a discussion about, well it builds up when a person gets older,” Tomes said, adding that “they’re not going to grow up and be drug users.”

The bill also provides civil immunity for a health care provider if the patient who possesses the cannabidiol is a part of a clinical trial. Physicians have to prescribe two other medications before trying CBD, which should be a last resort.

“You’re not going to CVS and asking for a bottle of this,” Tomes said. “It’s a process.”

HB 1148 differs from the Senate bill because it establishes a registry with the state Department of Health to provide immunity to the CBD-certified people to possess of the substance.

“The House trusts me that I am not trying to legalize marijuana.” Friend said. “That’s why the House passed the Senate bill 94 to zero.”

Sen. Karen Tallian, D-Portage, thought that Friends’ bill was complicated with a lot of science that needed to be clarified.

“I don’t like it and I think it’s a mess,” Tallian said, “and I am going to vote yes anyway because it’s the only mess around.”

Tallian said HB 1148 was unclear about who is eligible for CBD oil and how to figure out the percentage of THC in the substance before it becomes illegal. She also questioned whether the criminal code needed to be revised so people authorized to possess and use CBD don’t get arrested.

“It’s the THC that the prosecutors are trying to keep down,” Tallian said. “Every variety of plant has different percentages but you can never get a plant with no THC.”

Tallian said that she felt like legislators and prosecutors were “so paranoid that someone is going to get too much pot” if CBD became legal in Indiana.

Sen. Ron Grooms, R-Jeffersonville, said he opposes legalizing CBD, questioning whether it is safe and effective.

“Until the Food and Drug Administration approve cannabis for a medicinal purpose, I’m opposed to it being available,” he said.

Doriot, however, argued that CBD is legal in 42 other states, adding, “I don’t know what the hell is wrong with us.”

“My son had a few seizures,” Doriot said, crying as he explained why he supported the bill. “I understand what a parent goes through.”

Doriot’s son had a form of epilepsy but grew out of it in time.

“It was incurable so I was lucky, but some people are not as lucky,” Doriot said.

The differences between the House and Senate bills will be resolved next week.

Kayla Walker is a reporter for TheStatehouseFile.com, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students.

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