CHEYENNE — Wyoming lawmakers are struggling with how to craft legislation outlawing marijuana brownies and other foods and beverages containing the drug.
Wyoming lawmakers say the state is seeing an increase in importation of marijuana edibles and other substances containing the drug or its active ingredient following the 2014 legalization of recreational marijuana use in neighboring Colorado. Montana, meanwhile, allows medical use of marijuana.
The Wyoming Senate on Monday voted to advance a bill making possession of more than 3 ounces of marijuana edibles a felony. However, senators continue to argue about how to measure the concentration of marijuana in the substances, and its potency.
The bill requires one more vote in the Wyoming Senate before possibly heading to the House.
The Senate rejected an amendment sponsored by Sen. Cale Case, R-Lander, to allow defendants charged with felony possession of marijuana edibles to argue the substances they possessed held the equivalent of less than 3 ounces of actual marijuana plant material.
“It is a new world out there, and we face the reality that our neighboring states treat these crimes differently,” Case said.
“If you don’t do this, you’re going to catch your own kids, or your grandkids,” and treat them like felons, Case warned of the consequences of defeating his amendment.
“You ruin those people,” Case said. “They can’t get jobs, and they can’t run for office, and they can’t vote, and you wonder why they’re turned off on America.”
Sen. Bill Landen, R-Casper, a former administrator at Casper College, said that a year after marijuana became legal in Colorado, instances of students possessing marijuana edibles at the college spiked by about 10 times from those the previous year.
Landen said college students are willing to drive long distances to get what they want, and said it’s not uncommon for several students to chip in and place an order for drugs if one student is willing to make the drive out of state.
The Wyoming Legislature was prompted to wrestle with the issue of how to regulate marijuana edibles by a state district court ruling last year.
District Judge Steven Sharpe of Cheyenne last year dismissed criminal charges against a man accused of possessing felony amounts of marijuana after the Wyoming Highway Patrol stopped him for an alleged traffic violation and found nearly 2 pounds of marijuana candies, cookies, bread and chocolate bars. The judge ruled that state law prohibits marijuana in plant form.
“Seeking to take a bite out of crime, the state charged defendant with felony possession of marijuana,” the Casper Star-Tribune newspaper quoted Sharpe as writing in the case last year. “Believing the state’s charging decision to be half-baked, defendant argues that he did not possess more than 3 ounces of marijuana in a plant form.”
The Senate on Monday adopted an amendment sponsored by Sen. Curt Meier, R-LaGrange, that specifies an increasing range of misdemeanor punishments for subsequent convictions of possession of less than 3 ounces. A person convicted three times within three years of misdemeanor possession of marijuana edibles could be prosecuted for a felony on their fourth such charge.
Speaking after the Senate vote, Meier said, “Folks in Wyoming, myself included, for the most part we’re more conservative than the state to the south, and the state to the north of us. We have a different set of values. And we don’t believe that people should be basically using marijuana in such a cavalier way.”