CASPER, Wyo. — More than 100 new laws go into effect Wednesday, including one allowing seizure patients to use an oil from the cannabis plant.
But because the Wyoming Department of Health hasn’t yet created hemp extract registration cards, patients or their parents are unsure whether they could be arrested for possession of the product called cannabidiol, known by the initials CBD.
House Bill 32 requires the Department of Health to establish rules and fees for the hemp extract cards. Although the law goes into effect Wednesday, no deadline was given for the department to begin issuing registration cards.
“It’s a complex process,” said Health Department spokeswoman Kim Deti. “Rules are not a simple thing to complete. It’s something that’s not just yet ready. But we’re working through it to get as done as quickly as possible.”
In addition to the cards, the law requires the Health Department to create a confidential database of patients who use the oil. The law requires neurologists to provide a statement to the Health Department that the patient suffers from intractable epilepsy or a seizure disorder and may benefit from treatment with hemp extract.
“Without the rules, we don’t have the criteria,” Deti said. “We can’t issue the cards.”
It was not immediately clear whether patients or their parents would be arrested for CBD oil possession.
“I don’t want to provide a law-enforcement-related interpretation (of) how they would relate to a situation,” Deti said.
Deti said Health Department director Tom Forslund was unavailable to comment.
Messages left by the Star-Tribune with Wyoming Attorney General Peter Michael and staff of Gov. Matt Mead, asking whether it will be illegal on Wednesday for patients and parents to possess CBD oil, were not returned by press time.
Some see the law as a sign that Wyoming is inching toward medical marijuana, although the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Robert McKim, R-Afton, insists that’s not the case.
The new law allows only trace amounts of tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, the psychoactive component of cannabis, to be present in the oil.
The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration states marijuana and hemp are different parts of cannabis. Marijuana is the buds, stems and resin, which contain THC, and hemp includes the stalks and sterilized seeds.
Colorado and Utah have legalized CBD oil.
McKim said he intended all aspects of the law to be ready by Wednesday.
“I think they’re kind of dragging their feet, maybe just a little, on it,” he said, adding that the requirement to build the database may have slowed the process.
McKim said the law is almost identical to a bill that passed in Utah two years ago. The Wyoming Department of Health could use Utah’s regulations as a guide, he said.
Green River resident and Legislative observer Michele Irwin, who is active in the Sweetwater County Democratic Party, said she was most excited about the CBD oil bill.
“I’m glad that it’s legal now, but I can’t, for the life of me, understand why it would to be illegal before,” she said.
The Legislature passed 203 bills earlier this year, and more than half of them became legal Wednesday, including:
Right to try: Sponsored by Sen. Bruce Burns, R-Sheridan, the bill allowed terminally ill people to use medicines that are still in the process of being approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
Front license plate exceptions: Motorcycles, trailers, and antique vehicles were be among some of the vehicles that don’t need front license plates. Rep. Stan Blake, D-Green River, sponsored the bill.
Shipment of wine: With the popularity of wine clubs, the Legislature has increased the amount that could be shipped to Wyoming to 36 liters from the previous amount of 18 liters. Rep. Hans Hunt, R-Newcastle, sponsored the bill.
Uncompensated care: While lawmakers declined to expand Medicaid, which helps low-income Wyomingites with health coverage, it provided instead $3 million to help hospitals with uncompensated care. Sen. Ray Peterson, R-Cowley, sponsored the bill.
Passing bicycles: When passing a bicycle, drivers of cars and trucks must provide at least three feet of separation between their vehicle, including mirrors and other projections, from the cyclist. Rep. Tim Stubson, R-Casper, sponsored the bill.
Stubson, in addition to his bill on passing cyclists, noted that Wednesday marks the beginning of a new fiscal year for Wyoming.
The state government operates on a two-year budget. During the odd years, the Legislature passes supplemental budgets to address changes in revenue or requests from agencies.
Many parts of the supplemental budget will begin Wednesday. Lawmakers are facing declining revenues because of less money from oil revenues, and much of the supplemental budget is contingent upon investment income the state earns throughout this fiscal year, such as $15 million for science, technology, engineering, math education at community colleges and another $37.5 million for the state Capitol project, Stubson said.
“We started with a $220 million shortfall, with an additional $160 million in requests from the governor,” he said. “In ways we hadn’t ever done before, we were able to address the shortfall and fund a significant number of projects the governor asked for and were priorities for the Legislature as well.”’