Updated on December 20, 2018. Medical content reviewed by Dr. Richard Koffler, MD, Board Certified Physiatrist
There aren’t very many people who meet medical marijuana qualifications in Indiana because the state has nothing resembling a comprehensive medicinal cannabis program. However, state leaders have at least decided to offer limited access to cannabidiol (CBD) oil for people suffering from severe epilepsy. This form of CBD may reduce some of the symptoms of the condition, but it does not offer any psychoactive benefits.
If Senate Bill 255 and House Bill 1316 are passed, a medical marijuana program will be established in Indiana and it will protect patients with a physician’s recommendation who possess a legal quantity of medicinal cannabis.
In April 2017, both the state Senate and House approved bills that allowed epileptic patients to legally access CBD. While advocates wanting a more expanded program were disappointed, at least this was a sign of progress. This was the first piece of legislation involving medical weed that even received a hearing inside the state’s General Assembly, much less came up for a vote.
But make no mistake about it, this program is severely limited. It only provides CBD users with an “affirmative defense” if they are caught possessing this form of medicine. Patients can still be arrested, but their cases can be thrown out if they provide a physician’s recommendation that they can benefit from CBD use.
There have been some Indiana lawmakers who have tried to implement a sensible medical marijuana program in the state, but they have been denied time and time again. One of the reasons that this limited program was finally approved is that several influential groups demanded it. This includes the state’s American Legion organization, which represents more than 80,000 veterans in the Hoosier State.
Perhaps this new program, as limited as it may be, will help open the door for expansion in the future. One fact that encourages activists is that 73 percent of people polled in Indiana favor allowing people with several different health issues to be able to use marijuana legally.
Unfortunately, most state leaders will very likely continue to be intractable when it comes to expanding the state’s medical marijuana program. The governor, Eric Holcomb, said he has no plan to expand the new program or to explore the possibility of legalizing weed anytime in the near future.
However, Rep. Jim Lucas announced in August 2017 that he will be proposing legislation in the next session to legalize medical marijuana.
One of the proponents of a sensible medical weed program, State Senator Karen Tallian, has been a staunch proponent of making cannabis available to a much wider range of patients. She said the program enacted by the Indiana General Assembly is not only “sloppy,” but it will also provide very few benefits to those suffering from epilepsy.
Opponents of the CBD bill have a problem with the fact that it allows patients to use oil that has a minuscule 0.3 percent of THC. They believe that even this tiny amount can accumulate in the body over time, ultimately leading a person to experience psychoactive effects. This, they say, could enable users to “cheat” drug tests because law enforcement agents wouldn’t be able to determine whether a positive test result was from using CBD or smoking weed illegally. Even though this falls flat in the face of rationality as well as science, they still believe the CBD allowed in Indiana should be completely free of THC.
For what it’s worth, the new legislation will provide immunity to health care providers who recommend CBD oil. However, medical marijuana can only be a “last resort” and recommended only after patients have tried two other prescription medications without success. In addition, part of the bill will establish a state Department of Health registry that will give people authorized to use CBD immunity from being found guilty of breaking the law.
There were still a lot of questions regarding how people would be able to obtain CBD as of this writing, and it was very likely that it would take several months before those questions would be ironed out.
People who meet Indiana medical marijuana qualifications will, as a result, have to wait a long time before they are able to legally find relief from their epileptic symptoms. In order to benefit from the medicinal qualities of cannabis, they’ll either have to purchase it illegally within the state or go out of state, risking federal prosecution for transporting a controlled substance across state lines.
Indiana marijuana laws are among the strictest in the entire United States. If someone is caught with as little as a joint, he or she could be subject to a year in jail and a fine of as much as $5,000. Even though statistics show that nearly 90 percent of all burglaries in the state and 85 percent of motor vehicle thefts went unsolved in Indiana in 2012, law enforcement agents still managed to make more than 9,000 arrests for weed possession.