(IndyStar) The question Thomas McDermott wanted answered Wednesday doesn’t get asked often during policy discussions in Indiana: Could his Labrador retriever be breaking the law by using a pain remedy extracted from cannabis?
McDermott, who happens to be the Democratic mayor of Hammond, asked the question from the audience during an otherwise buttoned-down panel discussion on alcohol and marijuana policy at the BGD Legislative Conference in Indianapolis.
On the panel was Indiana Attorney General Curtis Hill, a Republican who last month issued a legal opinion that said the use of cannabidiol oil, or CBD, was illegal in most circumstances in Indiana. His opinion attempted to cut through the confusion created after the Indiana General Assembly passed a bill in the spring to create a registry of epilepsy patients who could legally use the oil, which is said to ease epileptic seizures.
Despite its therapeutic uses, CBD oil has been a thorny issue because it is an extract from cannabis — that same family of plants from which marijuana is derived. Some policy makers and politicians have warned that legalizing CBD oil could be a gateway to legalizing marijuana.
McDermott prefaced his CBD question of Hill by telling the story of Teddy, his 12-year-old yellow lab. He said the dog had been struggling to get around because of arthritis and hip problems. He had also clearly been in pain. His vet recommended a natural remedy — CBD oil — to ease the animal’s suffering.
McDermott bought the oil through an online company that makes the stuff in biscuits and oils for dogs, and it arrived in the mail. Not long after McDermott began giving it to the dog, he noticed some changes in Teddy: He began moving around much more easily. He had more energy. And, with a sly grin, McDermott said, the dog’s appetite was also much improved.
To put it succinctly, McDermott said he thought Hill was “grandstanding” on the CBD issue and that his opinion defied the intentions of the General Assembly.
Hill rejected the notion he was grandstanding, maintaining that he was following the law as it was written.
McDermott pressed the issue, asking if his dog was breaking the law.
No, Hill said. It was McDermott — not his dog — who was breaking the law.
The exchange ended soon after, as did the panel discussion. The two men shook hands but had little else to say to one another.
Afterward, McDermott, a Navy veteran and the mayor of Hammond for 14 years, said he didn’t appreciate being deemed a criminal for trying to ease his dog’s pain. He doesn’t plan to change his CBD oil therapy for Teddy, who is named after a Republican: Teddy Roosevelt.
“I don’t intend to have my dog go through pain because the attorney general is trying to score political points,” McDermott said.