Marijuana Rally

Gemini "Love" Mathew, left, attends a "Walk for Weed" rally Feb. 14 in downtown Cheyenne, Wyo. Activists with the Wyoming chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws have filed paperwork with the state which, if approved, would let them begin a signature-gathering campaign to get an initiative on the 2016 general election ballot to legalize medical marijuana.

CODY, Wyo. — A legislative committee will sponsor a bill in the 2016 session that will make 1 pound or more of marijuana edibles a felony in Wyoming.

Judges had asked the Joint Judiciary Committee for guidance on criminalizing edible forms of marijuana in August at a committee meeting in Gillette. An increasing number of people are purchasing marijuana-infused brownies, cookies and candy in Colorado, where edibles are legal, and getting caught with them in Wyoming, where they are prohibited.

At least two judges have tossed out edibles cases in district courts, ruling current state law specifies that felony marijuana possession can only be in the plant form.

The bill that Joint Judiciary Committee members decided to sponsor Wednesday afternoon originally specified that possession of edibles weighing over 3 ounces would be a felony. Three ounces of the leafy form of pot can result in felony charges.

But Rep. Nathan Winters, R-Thermopolis, encouraged his colleagues to think about the size of a 3-ounce cookie.

“Three ounces is not that large,” he said.

Lawmakers said they preferred to separate the amount of the psychoactive ingredient THC inside an edible and criminalize only that amount. But there aren’t any certified crime labs in the United States that can analyze the THC content. Therefore, the bill under consideration by lawmakers would criminalize the entire edible, including the butter, sugar, chocolate, flour and other ingredients.

Sen. Michael Von Flatern, R-Gillette, tried to amend the bill to say that possession of all amounts of edibles in Wyoming would be a misdemeanor, since the testing of THC content in edibles is still being developed.

“I can’t see turning a whole generation into felons just because they had 3.1 ounces,” he said.

Rep. Bill Pownall, R-Gillette, disagreed, saying it would be inappropriate to charge people with a misdemeanor if they were caught with a truckload of pot brownies.

“I think we’re sending the wrong signal to the youth to say, ‘We’re going to let you slide on this,'” he said.

Rep. Charles Pelkey, D-Laramie, said prosecutors would most likely charge people in the truck with the crime of intending to distribute marijuana. There would be consequences, he said.

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Von Flatern’s amendment ultimately failed, as did an amendment to increase the amount of felony edibles possession to 3 pounds. Lawmakers settled on 1 pound of edibles.

The committee passed the measure in an 8-5 vote, with one senator excused.

Committee co-chairman Sen. Leland Christensen, R-Alta, said the committee’s mixed response to the measure signals the bill will be rigorously debated when the entire Legislature meets beginning Feb. 8. Some lawmakers, such as Pelkey, believe all forms of marijuana should be decriminalized. Others said they want to offer judges some clarification.

Sen. Dave Kinskey, R-Sheridan, said the game may change by then. Technology could be more widely available to determine THC content by volume, level or concentration in edibles.

“There may be labs soon,” he said.

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