Indiana Attorney General Declares CBD Illegal: What Happens Now?

CBD oil could soon become harder to access in Indiana.

To put it mildly, we were disappointed when Indiana Attorney General Curtis Hill issued an opinion on November 21 suggesting CBD oil is illegal for most state residents to use. Although his words don’t carry the force of law, the statement could lead to more crackdowns on CBD vendors and leaves consumers under a haze of legal uncertainty.

In September, we wrote about how an Indiana state law meant to improve access to CBD for epilepsy sufferers actually led to raids on shops selling CBD oil. But things were looking up after police realized they couldn’t determine the supplement’s actual legal status, and products were back on the shelves in many shops.

CBD, or cannabidiol, is an extract made from industrial hemp, a variety of the cannabis plant. But unlike psychoactive cannabis, or marijuana, it doesn’t cause people to feel high. In fact, thousands of people have found it offers benefits to their health — for example, by reducing the inflammation of arthritis — while leaving them clear-headed enough to perform their usual, everyday tasks.

A growing body of scientific evidence suggests CBD oil is safe, causes few side effects, and offers numerous benefits. Many experts insist CBD is legal to use under current U.S. law, but Hill’s opinion can only serve to renew the uncertainty over a supplement that we believe should be available to all.



“There is no doubt, as a matter of legal interpretation, that products or substances marketed generally for human consumption or ingestion, and containing cannabidiol, remain unlawful in Indiana as well as under federal law,” Hill wrote in his advisory opinion earlier this month.

In actuality, however, there is considerable doubt, with many insisting that CBD should be and may already be completely legal.

One of the most remarkable discoveries is that CBD seems to help some people with epilepsy, even if their epilepsy has proven difficult to treat in other ways. Like a growing number of states, the Indiana General Assembly passed a law in April intended to make it easier for epilepsy sufferers to access CBD.

But, after the law passed, state excise police began raiding dozens of grocery stores and shops in the state, confiscating some 3,000 products according to an investigation published in September by the Indianapolis Star. Legislators, store owners and CBD users all objected to this seemingly unintended consequence of the new law, and the police stopped their raids. CBD products returned to Indiana stores. But, the attorney general also promised to weigh in, which brings us to his new, controversial statement.


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For decades, industrial hemp was completely illegal in the United States, just like all forms of the cannabis plant. Then, in 2014, Obama signed a Farm Bill which legalized industrial hemp for research purposes, allowing each state to set the rules for hemp research within their borders. Follow up legislation banned the federal government from wasting resources prosecuting anyone participating in this program.

“This may be the most ridiculous thing Indiana has ever done” – Jon Webb

Although the DEA has threatened to crack down on CBD at times, hemp advocates and many legal experts insist that the 2014 Farm Bill legalized the sale of hemp products (including CBD) created under these research programs and that other legal precedents protect imported hemp goods. The CBD industry has repeatedly promised to fight any future crackdowns on its products in court.

It’s very important to note that, despite the disagreement over CBD’s legality, no individual CBD users have been put in legal jeopardy. Even the attorney general hasn’t suggested that individual CBD users should be subject to arrest, but rather that “any individual possessing a substance containing cannabidiol – or anything packaged as such – in plain view of a law enforcement officer is subject to having that property seized.”

Despite this, fear and uncertainty are inevitable. It will ultimately be up to individual law enforcement agencies (and officers) to decide how to interpret and enforce the law, and how to react to the Hill’s words.



Understandably, Indiana residents quickly objected to the opinion, both online and in the media. Jon Webb, a columnist for the Indiana Courier & Press called the attorney general’s decision “nonsensical.”

“This may be the most ridiculous thing Indiana has ever done,” Webb wrote.

One of Webb’s major objections is that CBD is likely already legal in the state, because the General Assembly previously legalized all industrial hemp products, separating them from psychoactive cannabis. According to Webb, this legal change, similar to a statewide version of the 2014 Farm Bill, is what led the state police to halt their raids.

Even worse, when lawmakers created the epilepsy-specific CBD law, they neglected to create any mechanism for patients to obtain the supplement, meaning that epilepsy sufferers have to buy their CBD from the same stores as everyone else — stores that now could be under increased police threat thanks to the attorney general. Webb wrote:

“To recap: The Indiana State Police says CBD is legal. The attorney general says it’s illegal – unless you’re included on a registry that would you allow to buy it, even though you can’t buy it because the attorney general says it’s illegal.

Everybody got that?”

Although we are not lawyers or legal experts, we also believe CBD should be legal in Indiana (and everywhere else, too). Fortunately, no one in law enforcement is proposing a crackdown on CBD users, but it’s clear that clarification will be needed from both state and federal legislators to keep everyone safe from police overreach.

At the time this article was written, nearly 7,000 people had signed a petition asking Indiana to fully legalize CBD. While petitions can sometimes help, we encourage Indiana residents to reach out directly to their legislators for the most impact. Outside of Indiana, we also recommend contacting your Senators and Representatives and asking them to pass the Industrial Hemp Farming Act, a bill that would completely legalize industrial hemp nationwide.

Unfortunately, until bills like this pass, these kinds of legal disputes over CBD will continue to appear. Thanks to changing attitudes about hemp, however, the good news is we believe it’s only a matter of time before this beneficial plant is fully legal from coast to coast.


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Kit O'Connell is an Editor of Ministry of Hemp. His writing has also appeared at The Establishment, Firedoglake, YES! Magazine, the Texas Observer and Truthout.

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