INDIANAPOLIS — With the stroke of a pen, Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb ended months of confusion over whether Hoosiers are permitted to purchase and use cannabidiol, also known as CBD oil, to treat their health ailments.
The Republican did not hold a signing ceremony for Senate Enrolled Act 52. Though that's not uncommon for proposals not explicitly part of the governor's legislative agenda.
In any case, The Times has tracked down the signed copy of the law that took effect at 3:28 p.m. Wednesday, as noted in the governor's own hand following his signature.
Under the new law, there are no limitations on CBD oil sales through June 30 provided the product contains less than 0.3 percent THC, the cannabis compound that produces a "high."
Beginning July 1, Indiana CBD oil retailers only can sell CBD products that comply with new state testing and packaging requirements, including certification that the product is derived from industrial hemp and not marijuana.
Holcomb said in a statement following the signing: "Indiana lawmakers delivered a bill that ensures Hoosiers who benefit from CBD oil can access it."
"The bill provides much needed clarity, with labeling requirements and a 0.3 percent THC limit on CBD products. I’m grateful for the General Assembly’s hard work to bring me a bill to address the needs expressed by our citizens."
Earlier that day, the governor also told reporters: "The bill that the Legislature passed is exactly the bill that I asked for at the very outset."
"I wanted to make sure that we knew the levels, I wanted to make sure that we had labeling and the folks that needed this had access to it — and they do."
Republican Attorney General Curtis Hill, who sparked the CBD oil confusion, declined to comment on the new law.
Hill issued an official opinion in November that said CBD oil was illegal in Indiana because it only can be derived from marijuana, which is a prohibited controlled substance under state and federal law.
The new Indiana statute requires CBD oil sold after July 1 to be derived from industrial hemp — a modified version of the cannabis plant that contains little to no THC.
Industrial hemp exists in a kind of legal limbo as the 2014 federal farm bill authorized states to permit farmers to grow industrial hemp for research purposes.
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A 2016 Indiana law then allowed licensed farmers to produce and possess hemp for commercial or research purposes in accordance with federal law.
But Hill suggested in December that even if CBD oil produced from industrial hemp contains no THC, it's still likely illegal under federal law.
"The determinant is whether a substance is produced from the floral bracts, resin and leaves of the cannabis plant — and scientific literature confirms that cannabidiol cannot be distilled in sufficient amounts from inert parts of the plant such as the sterilized seeds or mature stalks," Hill said.
Indiana courts ultimately may have to decide who is right.
But because Holcomb oversees the state police and state excise police, it's unlikely there will be retailer raids conducted on the basis of the attorney general's opinion.
In addition, nearly every member of the Republican-controlled General Assembly is on the governor's side.
Senate Enrolled Act 52 passed the Senate, 36-11, and the House, 97-0.
At the same time, the new law provides that retailers who knowingly sell marijuana disguised as CBD oil can be charged with a Level 5 felony punishable by up to six years in prison and a $10,000 fine.
An individual who possesses marijuana made to look like CBD oil may face a Class A misdemeanor with up to one year in jail and a $5,000 fine.
Two Northwest Indiana legislators were among the sponsors of the law: state Sen. Karen Tallian, D-Ogden Dunes; and state Sen. Lonnie Randolph, D-East Chicago.