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Cannabis oil, prescribed to Greta Botker, 7, sits on the kitchen counter top of her parent‚’s Colorado home Feb. 6, 2014. The cannabis oil is extracted from a genetically modified strain of marijuana called Charlotte‚’s Web which produces a low THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) yield and high CDB (Cannabidiol) yield.(Photo: USA Today)

MUNCIE — State Rep. Sue Errington, D-Muncie, expects her medical marijuana bill to be assigned to the “graveyard committee” again by the speaker of the House.

But a marijuana-related bill introduced by Senate Agriculture Committee Chair Jean Leising, a Republican whose district includes southern Henry County, stands a much better chance of being enacted.

Errington is calling Leising’s Senate Bill 72 “a good step.”

Leising chaired an interim study committee that addressed whether cannabidiol (CBD) oil should be made legal for the purposes of treating seizures in children. The committee voted 10-0 in favor of proposed legislation (SB 72) aimed at providing immunity from prosecution to Hoosier doctors conducting trials on the effectiveness of CBD oil for treating seizures.

Interest in the therapeutic effects of CBD has been growing, partially in response to media attention surrounding the use of CBD oil in young children with intractable seizure disorders, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA). In a documentary headlined “Cannabis for Kids,” National Geographic, for example, reported on parents of sick children turning to medical marijuana as a last resort.

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CBD oil is illegal under federal law because it is derived from the plant cannabis sativa, the same plant as marijuana, according to Leising. But during committee hearings, Leising learned that an Indianapolis doctor has received permission from the Drug Enforcement Administration and the Food and Drug Administration to conduct a trial with child patients who have severe cases of epilepsy.

While federal authorities have approved the trial, Leising has expressed concern that, technically speaking, an overzealous prosecutor could go after doctors conducting such trials.

The Indiana Prosecuting Attorneys Council told the committee that CBD oil is produced in the same way as illegal hash oil, and that legalizing CBD oil would effectively legalize hash oil, leading to an explosion in “hash oil” labs.

Errington calls SB 72 “a good step,” saying “maybe these little pilots, if her bill passes, that could be another step.” But she added: “I think it’s just a first step, because there are a lot of other conditions that could be helped. I mean the pain of cancer, glaucoma, hepatitis C, Crohn’s disease, Alzheimer’s, PTSD. Veterans organizations have really come out strong for their medical marijuana bill because of the implications for treating PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder).”

Marijuana is a controlled substance because of the presence of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), marijuana’s psychoactive ingredient, according to the DEA. Because CBD contains less than 1 percent THC and has shown some potential medicinal value, there is great interest in studying it for medical applications.

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About two dozen states and the District of Columbia have passed laws allowing marijuana to be used for a variety of medical conditions. More than a dozen additional states have enacted laws intended to allow access to CBD oil and/or high-CBD strains of marijuana, NIDA reports.

The Republican-controlled Indiana General Assembly has not given Errington’s past medical marijuana legislation a hearing. “I think it’s important to keep the issue in front of the Legislature and the public because there is popular support for it,” she said. Her surveys of constituents found more support for marijuana than for Sunday alcohol sales.

Contact Seth Slabaugh at (765) 213-5834.

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