Marijuana Edible Prohibition Approved By Senate Committee

Marijuana comes in many different forms with all kinds of different THC levels. So trying to standardize the amount of THC in one pound can be difficult and misleading.

The Star Tribune reports:

The Senate Judiciary Committee on Monday approved an amended version of a bill that seeks to close a loophole regarding the legal possession of marijuana edibles.

Senate File 96 establishes that “preparations, compounds, mixtures or substances,” including baked goods, candies, drinks and other edibles containing marijuana or its active ingredient, THC, are illegal to possess.

In introducing the bill, Sen. Jeff Wasserburger, R-Gillette, said there has been conflict in some of Wyoming’s district courts over exactly how to treat marijuana possession when it is not in a plant form.

Wasserburger said at least two judges in the state have found state statutes unclear when it comes to governing THC content in edibles. SF 96 attempts to set that straight.

As originally written, the bill would define the possession of any edibles containing marijuana/THC as a misdemeanor, with a pound or more of such edibles constituting a felony punishable by up to five years in prison.

But Wendy Braund, a public health administrator with the Wyoming Department of Health, said she was concerned that SF 96 set the bar so high for felony possession of edibles.

“From our read, this bill decriminalizes possession of larger amounts of marijuana,” she said, adding that the amount of THC in one pound of edibles is not standardized.

Braund said she was concerned that leaving the one-pound felony provision in the bill could lead to a sharp increase in, for example, the number of children presenting at emergency rooms in the state due to accidental ingestion of large amounts of THC. She said other states that have decriminalized marijuana edibles have seen threefold increases in just those numbers.

Sen. Michael Von Flatern, R-Gillette, questioned why SF 96 would criminalize the weight of edibles, rather than their THC content. He noted that someone could bake three pounds of brownies with only a very small amount of THC, but would still be inviting a lengthy prison term, whereas someone with an ounce of Gummi bears would not, even if the THC content of the Gummi bears could be extremely potent.

Byron Oedekoven, executive director of the Wyoming Association of Sheriffs and Chiefs of Police, asked committee members to consider what law enforcement personnel are actually encountering during their routine stops across the state: Is it homemade baked pot brownies, or packaged and marketed products from Colorado, where marijuana has been legalized?

“The latter seems to be the case,” Oedekoven said, adding that in his experience, when it comes to packaged products, three ounces of Gummi bears is “roughly equivalent” to three ounces of leaf marijuana – three ounces being the felony cutoff for the latter.

“So you’d rather see (the felony cutoff for edibles) be three ounces instead of a pound?” asked committee chairman Sen. Leland Christensen, R-Alta.

“Correct,” Oedekoven replied.

Sen. Dave Kinskey, R-Sheridan, moved to amend SF 96 to make three ounces the felony cutoff for edibles. This again prompted objection from Von Flatern, who said he didn’t feel it was right for someone to lose their voting rights or gun ownership rights for being caught with three ounces of brownies that may have only residual THC content.

“It’s truly not testable; you don’t know how much THC is in that object,” Von Flatern said. “Until they come up with a reliable test for it, I can’t support this bill or the amendment.”

But Christensen argued that, in his past experience in law enforcement, it would be very rare for a person caught with three ounces of edibles to wind up being sentenced to prison. Far more often, he said, prosecutorial discretion would result in a lesser punishment, if any.

Kinskey’s amendment passed the committee by a 3-2 vote, with Von Flatern and Sen. Floyd Esquibel, D-Cheyenne, opposed. The bill then passed the committee by a vote of 4-1, with Von Flatern again opposed.

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Richard Lowe

Richard Lowe is a 14-year veteran of the financial sector with licenses as a commodity broker (Series 3) and investment advisor representative (IAR Series 65). Along with a focus on raising capital for the firms he was employed with, he also wrote and edited much of the content published by them. He holds a BA in Journalism from the University of Massachusetts. He has been a longtime advocate for marijuana legalization due to the social injustices associated with marijuana prohibition and the strong potential for the medicinal benefits of cannabis.

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