Health and Wellness Senate takes first step toward allowing hemp oil to treat epilepsy

Senate takes first step toward allowing hemp oil to treat epilepsy

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Hear the words “medical marijuana” and many opinions, both in support and against the idea, are elicited. Did you know, however, that some cannabis products are being used to treat intractable diseases actually contain antipsychotic, neuroprotective qualities? Additionally, did you know that numerous states across the U.S. already have fully-functioning, medical marijuana programs in place?

Medical marijuana could help thousands of Hoosiers cope with chronic illnesses and diseases. This legislative session, longtime marijuana reform proponent Senator Karen Tallian (D-Portage) has authored Senate Bill (SB) 255, which would establish a medical marijuana program as well as the Department of Marijuana Enforcement (DOME) to regulate and oversee it. This proposal has yet to receive a committee hearing this legislative session.

Sen. Tallian has also co-authored SB 15, a bipartisan effort which would allow cannabidiol (CBD) hemp oil, a substance derived from the hemp plant, for the treatment of epilepsy. Studies involving CBD oil have shown it to have many therapeutic effects valuable to those suffering from epilepsy. These include anticonvulsive, sedative and antipsychotic properties. Since CBD oil can be produced from the hemp plant—a plant that is in the same cannabis family as marijuana—it contains miniscule levels of delta-9-terahydrocannibinol (THC), the primary “high”-inducing ingredient found in marijuana. This paired with its sedative qualities gives CBD hemp oil immense potential to positively affect the lives of those with intractable epilepsy and their families.

While this bill is less comprehensive then Sen. Tallian’s proposed legislation, it is a progressive step on Indiana’s journey to marijuana reform. The majority of states across the country currently have some sort of medical marijuana law in place; In fact, there are eight states where marijuana is completely legal for adults, and is taxed and regulated similarly to alcohol. Both of Indiana’s neighbors to the east and west, Ohio and Illinois, have medical marijuana laws removed jail time for possessing small amounts of marijuana. SB 15 would put Indiana on the map when it comes to marijuana reforms, as well as provide another leg in the table of options for Hoosiers seeking compassionate medical care in Indiana.

Photo Map courtesy of Marijuana Policy Project

This week, SB 15 passed out of the Senate by a vote of 38-12 after much debate on the floor. It will now move to the House of Representatives after the mid-session break for further consideration, where Sen. Tallian is hoping it will be well-received. Sen. Tallian’s bill, SB 255 has been assigned to the Tax and Fiscal Policy Committee and is still awaiting a hearing. This bill is similar to the medical marijuana proposals Sen. Tallian has authored in past sessions, and it offers a wide-ranging plan to regulate and review the program. The DOME state agency, for example, would be accompanied by an advisory committee to review the effectiveness of the program and consider recommendations from DOME. SB 255 would also authorize the agency to grant research licenses to research facilities with a physical presence in Indiana, as well as repeal the controlled substance excise tax and the marijuana eradication program. Sen. Tallian is hoping there will be a chance to share more information about SB 255 and how it would benefit Hoosiers in the Tax and Fiscal Policy Committee in the upcoming weeks. For now, she is pleased to see SB 15 moving through the Statehouse and hopeful for the thousands of Hoosiers affected by epilepsy that would benefit from this commonsense reform.

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