In the fall of 2015, the Indiana Senate Agriculture and Natural Resources committee gathered at the Statehouse for yet another study on the potential legalization of cannabidiol oil, or CBD oil, for children with intractable epilepsy. In the back of the room, waiting to testify in support, were the head of the Epilepsy Foundation of Indiana, multiple doctors, and the parents of kids who had found relief from seizures by illegally using CBD oil, an extract derived from the cannabis plant that has no psychoactive properties—it doesn’t get users high.
“We have anecdotal evidence, at best,” Negangard said.
It proved to be a winning argument—when Republican Senator Jim Tomes introduced a bill to legalize the substance for epileptic patients the following legislative session, it died a quick death in an unfavorable committee. CBD oil supporters were devastated, but they learned from the experience. In subsequent years, armed with new studies showing other health benefits of the oil and emboldened by rising public support, they refined their approach and focused on educating lawmakers. It finally worked. This past March, the legislature passed SB52, legalizing CBD oil for all Hoosiers, a bill that Governor Eric Holcomb signed into law.
The Indianapolis Star and other outlets covered the entire saga, but a piece of related legislation passed with far less media attention. In some ways, it’s a direct result of the efforts on the CBD oil front. Without a single dissenting vote, the House also approved HR-2, calling for a study committee to look into something that would have seemed inconceivable a few years ago: legalizing medical marijuana.
While that may seem optimistic—after all, it took Indiana more than 80 years to fully repeal alcohol prohibition—it’s not totally unreasonable, considering the momentum behind the movement. In a statewide poll conducted in 2016 by WTHR/HPI, 73 percent of the 600 Hoosiers surveyed supported medical marijuana.
The opposition doesn’t see it from the same perspective. Hill has opined multiple times on the issue, most notably last summer in an Indianapolis Star op-ed, in which he wrote: “Legalizing a gateway drug such as marijuana leads vulnerable people to worse substances such as methamphetamine and heroin.” IPAC also has been vocal in its opposition, stating that “information purporting that marijuana is medicine is based on half-truths and anecdotal evidence.”