State lawmakers pledge to pass CBD oil bill this year


INDIANAPOLIS (WTHR) - “We're going to look pretty foolish if we don't legalize CBD oil this year."

Those words from State Sen. Tim Lanane, D-Anderson, were the consensus Thursday morning as a bipartisan group of lawmakers met in a basement conference room at the Statehouse to work out differences in House and Senate versions of a bill that would legalize CBD oil in Indiana. There are only minor differences in the House and Senate versions of SB 52, but enough to force the issue to a small group of legislators to finalize wording that will head to the governor for his signature. One thing was very clear in the conference committee hearing: this group WILL find consensus and a CBD oil legalization bill WILL be sent to the governor for his signature.

“We’re not leaving here without a bill,” State Sen. Michael Young, R-Indianapolis, said. He authored the legislation.

“We’re gonna have a bill and we’re gonna get this done,” State Rep. Bill Friend, R-Macy, agreed. Friend authored a very similar CBD bill in the House that is also eligible for a conference committee to work out variations passed by each chamber.

That said, House committee members expressed frustration that changes they made to the bill were not reflected in the version Young was presenting to the conference committee. In the House version of SB 52, lawmakers passed an amendment to remove strict labeling requirements from the original Senate bill that they believe are burdensome and unnecessary.

State Rep. Matt Pierce, D-Bloomington, (right) addressing a conference committee reviewing a bill that would legalize CBD oil in Indiana, Thursday, March 8, 2018. (WTHR Photo/Bob Segall)

“What are we trying to protect ourselves from?” State Rep. Matt Pierce, D-Bloomington, asked. “You can’t get high from it and it has no negative side effects....There is no need for all of this bureaucracy and all of this regulation.”

It was not lost on committee members that a Democrat from arguably the most left-leaning city in Indiana was calling out his Republican colleagues in the Senate for their desire to mandate a detailed list of additional regulations in order to legalize a product that has been bought and sold in Indiana for years without incident.

Several House and Senate Republicans quickly echoed Pierce’s concerns, and it may result in a final bill that includes fewer labeling requirements than originally proposed by Young. He told members of the conference committee the labeling was proposed to help law enforcement quickly identify whether a CBD oil product is legal (containing less than 0.3 percent THC), and that he would check with law enforcement representatives to see if they are comfortable removing the language from the final bill.

It's worth noting Gov. Eric Holcomb told WTHR last week he wants to sign a CBD oil bill into law, but he wants that law to include detailed labeling requirements. (He did not elaborate on what that means.) Young, who says he has been in touch with both the governor’s office and prosecutors on this bill, told Senior Investigative Reporter Bob Segall he will continue conversations with those groups to ensure the final bill that comes out of the conference committee will have the governor’s blessing.

“We are going to have a bill the governor will sign. I can tell you that,” Young told Eyewitness News Thursday morning. He hopes to have final wording on a compromise bill by Monday that members of the conference committee can review and sign, a final conference report sent to the House and Senate for approval on Tuesday, and a CBD oil legalization bill on the governor’s desk by Wednesday. That is the final day of the 2017-2018 legislative session.

Lawmakers will meet in conference committee again Thursday afternoon to discuss HB 1137. That bill would allow Indiana farmers to grow industrial hemp, as well as process and manufacture products that come from industrial hemp, such as CBD oil. HB 1137 passed the House 90-0 and received overwhelming support in the Senate. But bill author Jim Lucas, R-Seymour, and the governor do NOT see eye-to-eye on this one. The governor wants the whole bill tabled in favor of a summer study committee. Lucas and many others lawmakers say waiting another year to allow Indiana to enter the booming industrial hemp sector is ridiculous, and they plan to fight the governor’s position on this one.

Should be a very interesting committee hearing.

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