Brad Byrd In-Depth: State Sen. Jim Tomes talks CBD oil legal status

Indiana Attorney General Curtis Hill released an advisory opinion on Tuesday proclaiming CBD oil to be mostly illegal. 

State lawmakers passed legislation earlier this year allowing certain patients with treatment resistant epilepsy to used CBD oil. Hill says no one outside of that registry can have or sell the product. 

Brad Byrd talks with Indiana State Senator Jim Tomes about the current legal status of CBD Oil. Senator Tomes authored a bill to allow patients with treatment resistant epilepsy to use the product. 

Transcript of interview:

Brad Byrd: "Welcome to In-Depth. We're continuing to talk the legal status of C-B-D oil in Indiana. Attorney General Curtis Hill released an advisory opinion today saying the cannabis based substance is not legal for everyone in the Hoosier State. I'm joined tonight by Indiana State Senator Jim Tomes -- he is an advocate for legalizing C-B-D oil. And Senator Tomes your reaction I understand you got up pretty early this morning to head up to Indianapolis for this Organization Day. And kind of caught by surprise, several people caught by surprise by this opinion that was issued by Mr. Hill. Tell me about that." 

State Sen. Jim Tomes: "Well, yeah. You know, I’m sure that his decision to give that opinion was based on - there is some ambiguity about what’s legal in this measure. But I, I don’t think anybody was expecting this to come out today. But, nevertheless, I had requested ... you know this CBD bill that we got passed this year ... I’ve been working that for three years. Three years trying to get that passed. And this year we got a break. We got a hearing on it and we got legislation signed into law. But I know that there were details that needed to be polished on this. And so, a couple of months ago I had requested another bill for this session to clearly define what’s legal, who can sell it, who can buy it. And I was working ... in fact the LSA attorney who’s crafting that bill for me came to me today and wanted me to review what he had and then this news came out about the opinion rendered by the A.G." 

Brad Byrd: "And this tends to put the people who - you say need this - for legitimate reasons in perhaps a catch-22 because in one instance, the Attorney General is saying that it’s illegal ... it’s, in his opinion, it’s illegal. It’s part of the cannabis markers or what have you. But at the same time, there is a bill already out there in which certain individuals are allowed to buy it in the state of Indiana. Those are individuals who have epilepsy who are on a registry. So where do we go from here then with that being said?"

State Sen. Jim Tomes: "On the bill that we passed, allows for people to get in a registry that would be put up by Indiana, and there was certain stipulations, and it  would protect them from any kind of legal or any kind of a violation by having this product with them or in their system. So, that’s what ... and we had, I think there was intractable epilepsy, there was Dravet syndrome and Lennox-Gastaut - I’m not sure if I’m pronouncing that right. There were three illnesses that we specifically mentioned in that bill. But I think now what we’ve got here, there are people buying this for other health reasons. And I think that’s what the opinion rendered by the A.G. was that this is not legal for those cases.   And so that’s what I want to improve on that we can widen this up and include other..." 

Brad Byrd: "Medical conditions. Like pain?"

State Sen. Jim Tomes: "Right. Yeah."

Brad Byrd: "And the perception of CBD oil though ... we were talking earlier tonight ... I would venture to say, if I asked people what it is just out on the street in Indiana, chances are a significant number of individuals would say that’s a form of marijuana. It’s kind of like medical marijuana, but it’s not. Tell me the difference."

State Sen. Jim Tomes: "In marijuana ... both marijuana and hemp are part of the cannabis family, but marijuana is very high in a component called THC, tetrahydrocannabinol. And that is the psychoactive ingredient that gives people the high euphoria. Marijuana is very high in THC and very low in CBD cannabidiol where as hemp is just the opposite. Hemp is very low in THC, .03 percent." 

Brad Byrd: "And that's the guideline." 

State Sen. Jim Tomes: "Yes, and it's very high in CBD. So, if we look at it like this, in marijuana the CBD is very low, THC is very high. And the CBD component by the way counters the THC. So, when we look at the hemp plant, since it's the high component, high level of CBD, it counters that THC level. So, that product in no way shape or fashion can give you any kind of a high or a buzz." 

Brad Byrd: "It's non-addictive?" 

State Sen. Jim Tomes: "Non-addictive." 

Brad Byrd: "Not even psychologically?"

State Sen. Jim Tomes: "Not even pyschologically." 

Brad Byrd: "Why is this personal for you, Senator Tomes?" 

State Sen. Jim Tomes: "You know three years ago when families came to me, there were a few that came to me and explained what they were dealing with, and these were their little babies, their children. Some of them were infants, some of them were 4, 5, 6 years old, some of them were 19 year olds, 12 year olds ... who were experiencing what they were calling intractable epilepsy. And some of these children were having 50, 100, 200 seizures a day. Different families, horrible conditions, and they were living these nightmares with these children. And they were explaining to me in their quest to find something other than the prescription medicine that their children had been on, they found that this product ... this CBD oil ... would either reduce those seizures or eliminate them." 

Brad Byrd: "Did that bring you to tears on some of those things you saw? You told me that it also brought other individuals." 

State Sen. Jim Tomes: "I'm telling you in testimony over the last past three years ... and these moms and dads who came to speak ... I'm tell you it brought tears to people. And it brought tears to a lot of people just to hear what this was all about." 

Brad Byrd: "If we learn about this substance that is at the center of this controversy, what is standing in its way? I mean are you being lobbied by pharmaceutical companies? Is it law enforcement?" 

State Sen. Jim Tomes: "The resistance I met with mostly is from the Prosecutor Association ... Indiana Prosecutor Association ... and they had reasons they believed this could be a potential problem for them. They thought it could be addictive, which is not the case. It's not addictive. One was suggesting that a canine may hit on a baby's seat if the baby had this product in its system or something like that." 

Brad Byrd: "Would that happen?" 

State Sen. Jim Tomes: "No. We had people who were professionals speaking upon this. There was a sheriff here in Indiana ... northern county ... who says there's a product out of state they go to get for his granddaughter. And these are professionals who could tell the community that this is not addictive, it's not a case where it's going to show up. Now, if a blood test was perform, it might show in a blood test. And that's why we had to do this legislation, so those in that registry would not find themselves in some violation with the Department of Child Services or something like that. So, we did a lot of work on this thing. We researched it. We talked to specialists and neurologists and researchers from across the country from east coast to west coast to make sure we were crafting something that was going to get the objective accomplished and yet protect those who are wanting to use this product for their families. And we did succeed in it, but we're going to have to approve on it to make it clear that it is a legal product. And in my bill, I want to expand upon it as you said to other health issues because this has been shown to be very helpful to opioid addiction, getting people off opioid addictions, and maybe even PTSD. So, there's a lot of possibilities with this." 

Brad Byrd: "Alright, Senator Tomes, we'll continue. This is a story that has many chapters to be told in the coming months. Thank you very much for stopping by tonight. I know it's been a long day for you, and we will be in touch. And new developments please let us know." 

State Sen. Jim Tomes: "Will do." 

Brad Byrd: "Alright."

For the latest breaking news and stories from across the Tri-State, follow Eyewitness News on Facebook and Twitter.

(This story was originally published on November 21, 2017)

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