MUNCIE — State Sen. Jean Leising says bills to legalize marijuana or marijuana-derived products to treat medical conditions will not get committee hearings in the Senate this session.
"They are all dead," the Republican lawmaker told The Star Press, quoting Sen. Patricia Miller, chair of the Health and Provider Services Committee, as saying she will not hear the bills. "There just isn't the appetite in the Senate for approving any kind of medical marijuana, not with the current makeup of the (50-member) Senate. You need 26 votes, and they're just not there."
Miller, R-Indianapolis, declined comment.
Meanwhile, Republican Rep. Thomas Washburne, chair of the House Courts and Criminal Code Committee, "will not be hearing this bill (1158) during this short session," said his press secretary, Brenda Holmes.
HB 1158, authored by Rep. Terry Goodin and co-authored by fellow Democratic Rep. Sue Errington, Muncie, would exempt from criminal penalties doctors and patients who use cannabis oil, an extract from the hemp plant, including cannabidiol (CBD), for medical treatment.
Parents and grandparents of Hoosier children who live with severe uncontrolled epileptic seizures have pleaded with lawmakers to legalize CBD because of promising preliminary data that it is an effective treatment.
"I would say the 20,000 people in Indiana with intractable epilepsy should have received not only support but encouragement and compassion (from the state of Indiana) like the 35 other states around us," Lafayette resident Lola Smith, whose grandson suffers severe seizures, told The Star Press. "I'm very discouraged, but they don't care that I'm discouraged."
Hartford City resident Melissa Stiffler, whose six-year-old son, Tristan, has uncontrolled seizures, said in an interview Thursday that Sen. Miller "is the one who is trying to push it (legislation) into the graveyard from being testified about. It's just another way of denying kids what they need, and it's not right. If they don't want to legalize this for medical use, why don't they shut down the pot church in Indianapolis that is using their religion to keep it going?"
Tristan is taking numerous pharmaceuticals, including phenobarbital, that are damaging his liver and kidneys.
Stiffler says opponents of CBD oil "are afraid it's going to start legalization of hash oil and recreational marijuana and all that. But Dr. Ridel's office told me this is a pharmaceutical. This isn't anything like what people are assuming. This isn't wanting it for recreation. This is a matter of medical necessity for my child."
CBD has very low levels of THC, the consciousness-, perception- and mood-altering component of marijuana.
Sen. Leising, a Republican whose district includes Rush and southern Henry counties, introduced a bill to exempt Keith Ridel, an Indianapolis pediatric neurologist, from criminal liability for a clinical trial of synthetic CBD involving a small number of children with severe seizures. Leising opposes making CBD, which has not been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, readily available. The trial reportedly has been approved by the FDA.
But Stiffler said, "If they deny this bill, that will stop him from doing the trial. It very well could." Ridel's office has declined comment.
Another bill that Miller reportedly won't hear, authored by Republican Sen. Jim Tomes from the Evansville area, would provide civil and criminal immunity for Indiana doctors who use CBD to treat severely epileptic children as well as immunity for Hoosier hemp growers and CBD manufacturers if certain conditions are met.
Sen. Karen Tallian, D-Portage, this week tried to amend medical marijuana legislation into a bill concerning criminal law matters. One amendment involved marijuana/hashish medical research projects approved by the state health department. The other would have allowed patients to possess marijuana/hashish prescribed by a physician, physician assistant or advanced practice nurse from any state. Both amendments were defeated by voice voted on the floor of the GOP-controlled Senate.
(Photo: Jordan Kartholl/The Star Press)