Wyoming at the forefront of changing marijuana laws

The Wyoming legislation is leading the forefront for criminal charges against anyone caught with edible marijuana coming over state lines from neighboring states.

Colorado legalizing recreational marijuana back in 2012 has left many neighboring states confused on how to enforce punishment for nontraditional marijuana. Multiple cases have been dismissed in the state of Wyoming due to the involvement of marijuana products in the non-traditional plant form.

Rep. Tara Nethercott, R-Laramie County, said that the state of Wyoming along with other states across the country are struggling to understand how to punish offenders in possession of nontraditional forms of marijuana and that Wyoming is trying to take the lead in establishing a punishment for edible marijuana possession.

The Wyoming state legislation has been in contact with local law enforcement on the issue and is trying to introduce the bill to help establish a fair punishment statewide.

Nethercott said that the bill is really in place to help law enforcement keep up with the newest sciences behind marijuana products and how to prosecute any violators in possession of such products.

Law enforcement is also looking for a clear definition of edibles from the Wyoming legislation to help with prosecution in such cases.

If the bills were to pass, anyone guilty of possessing three ounces or less of non-plant form marijuana or 36 ounces of liquid marijuana would be charged with a misdemeanor, receive a fine no larger than $200 and get up to 20 days in jail. A second offense would lead to a fine up to $750 and up to six months in jail. The third offense would lead to a fine of up to $5,000 and up to one year in jail. A fourth offense would end with a felony charge, with a fine up to $10,000 and up to five years of imprisonment.

Currently Wyoming doesn’t have a look-back law established with marijuana, and that is one thing Rep. Charles Pelkey, D-Albany County, is looking to have fixed with the new bill.

Pelkey said he feels like the state needs to implement a  look-back clause that would restrict law enforcement from bringing up previous convictions that happened 10 years ago or longer.       

The Wyoming legislature has two bills looking to be introduced onto the floor involving edible marijuana, one on the Senate floor and one on the House floor. The bills looking to be introduced onto the floor are House Bill 16 and Senate File 23.

The difference between the bills is the House bill is focused on edible marijuana in powder for for baking purposes of three ounces or more. The Senate file is focused on marijuana in the liquid form, such as soda, consisting of more than 36 ounces.

House Bill 16 died on the house floor in introduction on Feb. 15, with a vote of 49 against, 10 for and 1 excused vote.

Pelkey was one of the 49 house representatives that voted against House Bill 16 and said previously that he believed the bill would never pass as currently constructed.

“You know,” Pelkey said. “I haven’t spent this much time listening to people pointlessly talk about weed since I was in high school.”

Senate File 23 passed introduction on Feb. 13, moving the file onto a second vote.

The way these two bills are currently constructed, misdemeanor charges would be brought forward to anyone caught with 36 ounces of liquid marijuana or three ounces of edible form marijuana on the first three charges within a 10 year span. A fourth charge within a 10 year span would lead to a felony charge.

“We will not solve the marijuana issue this session,” Pelkey said. “We continually beat our head against the wall on this subject and get nothing done.”

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