The hemp industry in Indiana might have unintentionally received a booster shot last year when there was a real threat that cannabidiol, or CBD oil, could be removed from stores throughout the state.
Last summer, state agents started confiscating the oil—a non-psychoactive compound found in hemp and marijuana plants—from stores after the state passed a law approving its use for those suffering from seizures and were on a registry.
“I was worried,” said Cindy Haney, who owns the Down to Earth store in Granger along with her husband, Steve. “I immediately got on the phone with our reps and vendors to figure out what to do.”
Ray Corum, the owner of the Garden Patch at 228 W. Edison Road in Mishawaka, shared the same fear. After all, his small health-food store couldn’t afford to lose the inventory, and many of his customers swore by the CBD oil they used for pain relief, seizures, anxiety, restful sleep and a host of other issues.
“I thought it was unfair and unwarranted,” Corum said. “My product is derived from hemp. It doesn’t even contain a trace of THC so it isn’t even slightly psychoactive.”
Based on the outpouring of concerns that were expressed by store owners and CBD users, the state placed a moratorium on further action in November until it could review the CBD law it had passed.
“The best thing was Curtis Hill coming out against it,” said Jamie Campbell Petty, founder of the Indiana Hemp Industries Association. “Everyone spoke up and out at once.”
The message was heard loud and clear by the General Assembly, including Sen. Joe Zakas, R-Granger, Sen. David Niezgodski, D-South Bend, and others.
“We have become extremely aware of the things it does to help people,” said Niezgodski, reciting the litany of ailments that people are using it for. “We want to help Hoosiers suffering from these conditions. Last year, we thought we got it done.”
The legislation passed last year allowed the use of CBD oil only for those who were suffering with seizures and were on a registry. The attorney general’s office says it was just enforcing the law as it was passed.
“The opinion we issued in 2017 was to provide a legal interpretation of the existing statute,” Curtis Hill replied in an email. “Our opinion was that CBD oil per that statute was illegal with a very limited exception for individuals with treatment-resistant epilepsy who were registered with the state. I hope the General Assembly’s current work in this area produces legislation that is clearly written and easily understood.”
Now, legislation approving the sale and use of CBD oil is speeding toward approval. Niezgodski said the oil that is allowed in Indiana will be subject to testing to ensure it has less than 0.3 percent of the psychoactive ingredient THC.
Local shop owners Haney and Corum are just relieved that they can continue selling the oil to their customers without fear of a citation or having their inventory confiscated.
“My customers are good and decent people, really rooted people with a great deal of common sense,” said Corum, adding that at least 60 percent of the total sales in his store are natural foods — not supplements.
Corum said he uses CBD oil himself when his sciatica flares up, and his wife uses it to improve her sleep. Haney, whose store also focuses on natural foods, said she initially used the oil to help reduce anxiety for her dog as he neared death.
While it’s likely that CBD oil will be legalized, additional legislation is moving forward that would also allow for the expansion of industrial hemp production in Indiana. Hemp can be used to make CBD oil, hemp seeds, protein or even fiber used to make everything from clothing to door panels, said Campbell Petty from the Hemp Industries Association.
The legislation would allow Indiana to catch up with states including Kentucky, which has created many hundreds of jobs by allowing controlled cultivation of the plant, Petty said.
But no one is even thinking about the possibility of the use of medical marijuana at this point in time.
“We’re talking about hemp,” Niezgodski said. “I think it’s going to take a lot longer for medical marijuana. I don’t think the appetite is there for that yet.”