Indiana State Excise Police recently confiscated thousands of products containing CBD oil from around the state, only to back down when they realized they’d overstepped their legal boundaries.

In a series of raids that took place over five weeks in May and June 2017, state police took CBD supplements from 57 stores across the state, according to a Sept. 13 investigation by The Indianapolis Star. The attack on CBD appears to be an unintended consequence of a law that was meant to improve access to CBD for people with epilepsy. Now, the state has been forced to admit that CBD is legal in Indiana.

 

While science has shown that CBD is extremely effective for many with epilepsy, thousands of consumers seek out this non-psychoactive extract of industrial hemp to help with numerous ailments. Studies suggest that CBD can benefit conditions ranging from insomnia to schizophrenia, and some people are giving up other drugs in favor of CBD.

Unfortunately, this healing extract still remains in a legal gray area according to some government agencies and, as a result, some vendors have come under pressure. The CBD raids in Indiana are further evidence that federal action is needed to resolve CBD’s legal status, once and for all. In this article, we’ll dig deeper into what happened in Indiana, and look at what the future might bring for the state and the nation.

‘IT REALLY WORKED, THEN IT WAS JUST GONE’: ONGOING STATE & FEDERAL CONFUSION OVER CBD’S LEGALITY

“It’s ridiculous. So many people were benefiting from it,” an anonymous worker at a Fresh Thyme grocery store told Bob Segall, senior investigative reporter at WTHR after excise police seized thousands of dollars in CBD products from the chain’s stores on June 14.

 

The raids ended later that month, after the confiscations triggered “triggered outrage and confusion” among state residents, and Segall reported that CBD was back for sale at Fresh Thyme a month later.

To understand what happened, we have to examine the legal status of hemp and CBD in the United States. After decades of total prohibition on all forms of cannabis, the 2014 Farm Bill legalized industrial hemp for research purposes, including market research (sales of hemp and CBD products). Each state was allowed to determine how to implement this hemp research and, to date, 33 states have implemented some form of hemp growing program.

Despite hemp advocates and many legal experts arguing that CBD and hemp are unambiguously legal under these research programs, the Drug Enforcement Agency continues to threaten the CBD vendors and producers. Law enforcement agencies in some states, seemingly inspired by the DEA, have occasionally also threatened CBD vendors.

While CBD consumers haven’t faced any legal threats, their ability to buy products they depend on for relief can be interrupted.

“It really worked, and then it was just gone,” said Angela Hopkins, an Indiana resident who told Segall she’d been using CBD to treat a broken ankle and wean herself off prescription painkillers. “They told us they were raided and couldn’t sell it anymore.”

‘OUR LEGISLATION MESSED IT UP FOR EVERYBODY’: ADVOCATES AND LAWMAKERS ANGERED BY ‘OUT OF CONTROL’ POLICE

In the case of the recent raids in Indiana, state police claimed House Enrolled Act 1148, a law intended to help epilepsy patients access CBD without legal repercussions, allowed them to raid CBD vendors who were selling CBD to customers for any reason other than epilepsy. While some states like Texas have created programs to distribute CBD to people with epilepsy, these provisions were absent from the Indianapolis law because lawmakers were fearful of seeming “pro-cannabis,” according to The Indianapolis Star.  

Rather than clear up legal confusion over CBD, the act seems to have simply highlighted the problem. Jeff Shelton, an owner at Happy Daze, told the Star’s reporters Kaitlin L Lange and Tony Cook that police seemed clueless as they carried out the raids:

“It didn’t seem like they really knew what they were looking for. They weren’t very knowledgeable about CBD at all. They didn’t know what the current laws were.”

When Shelton and other staff objected to the raids, police cited them for “hindering law enforcement.” Cops then expanded their search to include a Daze store owners’ house, ultimately leading to drug possession charges when they discovered a baggy of psychoactive cannabis (which remains illegal under Indiana law).

Brandy Barrett, the mother of a 10-year old boy with severe epilepsy and an advocate for the CBD legislation, told the paper she felt “awful” about the raids. “I even heard from a few people that our legislation had messed it up for everybody, and that obviously wasn’t our intent.”

Lange and Cook reported some lawmakers were also questioning the raids. “It sounds like we’ve got an agency that is out of control,” Rep. Jim Lucas, R- Seymour told them.

Even though the raids have stopped, no one has gotten their confiscated products back. The Star reported that, in all, over 3,500 items were seized from 57 stores. Additionally, the state’s attorney general is reportedly evaluating CBD’s legality, meaning the raids could return at any time.  

 

Indiana CBD Raid Stats
Stats behind Indiana CBD raids. Source: Indystar

US LAWS MUST CHANGE SO EVERYONE CAN SAFELY ACCESS CBD & HEMP

It’s perhaps ironic that CBD oil can be a great stress reliever, given that so many consumers in Indiana faced considerable stress over their ability to purchase CBD oil over the summer. While CBD is available from online vendors, people should be able to purchase it from their local shops just like any other nutritional supplement.

Despite some threats against legal cannabis in all its forms from the DEA and the Department of Justice, it appears opinions about this plant are changing as the stigma toward it fades nationwide. Hemp in particular has bipartisan political support, especially in American “tobacco country”. With bills like the Industrial Hemp Farming Act, which would reduce the DEA’s control over hemp, under consideration by Congress, advocates say it’s only a matter of time before industrial hemp, at least, is legalized.

All of us at Ministry of Hemp have personally benefitted from hemp and CBD oil and, like so many thousands of others, we look forward to a day when this “billion dollar crop” is freely available in all its forms.

 

Article by Kit O’Connell

Kit O’Connell is a gonzo journalist and a contributor for Ministry of Hemp. His writing has appeared at The Establishment, Firedoglake, MintPress News, the Texas Observer and Truthout.

 

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