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The Journal Gazette

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Thursday, July 05, 2018 1:00 am


Lost confidence

Hill should resign in wake of groping allegations

After lawmakers approved legislation in 2017 authorizing the use of CBD oil in some circumstances, Indiana Attorney General Curtis Hill issued an advisory opinion declaring substances containing CBD as illegal to possess, make and sell under state and federal law. 

CBD is a narcotic because it comes from the cannabis plant, he ruled.

“Simply put, cannabidoil is a Schedule 1 controlled substance because marijuana is a Schedule 1 controlled substance,” Hill wrote. The law “(does) not hinge on the degree or prevalence of the pharmacological effects on a person.”

The General Assembly acted quickly this year to explicitly legalize the sale and use of CBD oil, which has no hallucinogenic effects. The product is increasingly used for medical purposes, including epileptic seizures and pain relief, but Hill's strict interpretation created confusion and frustration for retailers and consumers in the interim.

The attorney general appears not to apply so strict an interpretation to laws regarding sexual harassment and sexual assault. His insistence this week that he did not “touch anyone in an inappropriate manner” during a March 15 gathering at an Indianapolis bar sharply contradicts the accounts of four women, including a legislator and Republican and Democratic legislative staffers.

The lawmaker told legislative leaders the attorney general placed his hands on her back, put them under her clothing and grabbed her buttocks. He approached her a second time after she told him to “back off” and walked away, again reaching under her clothing and grabbing her buttocks. A legislative employee described similar behavior, with Hill groping her buttocks. There were witnesses to the interactions.

A law professor at Indiana University Robert H. McKinney School of Law told the Indianapolis Star that unwanted groping could have legal ramifications from Indiana criminal charges to civil litigation in federal court. Prosecutors typically decide whether the alleged battery was sexual in nature.

If not, a criminal charge would be a Class B misdemeanor, which carries a potential sentence of 180 days in a county jail and a fine up to $1,000, according to law professor Jennifer Drobac. A more severe penalty is possible, however, if the battery is sexual.

The latter example, a Level 6 felony, carries a potential sentence of six months to 21/2 years in state prison or a county jail and a fine up to $10,000. 

Hill insisted Tuesday he will not resign. 

“The people of the State of Indiana have given me the highest honor to have elected me with overwhelming support to the position of Attorney General. I will continue to honor my commitment to the citizens of this great state,” he said in a statement.

But Hill's authority as top legal officer for the state is sorely compromised in light of the allegations, which raise serious questions about the attorney general's judgment, character and allegiance to the letter of the law. 

Gov. Eric Holcomb, who rightly insisted “no one should be subjected to unwanted sexual advances,” planned to review the situation when he returned late Wednesday from an out-of-state trip. In light of what's been disclosed by the legislative memo, Hill's position and the credibility of the accusers, the governor should demand Hill's resignation.