Wyoming Legislature steps back on marijuana regulations

The 2018 Wyoming Legislature took up the issue of redefining punishments for edible marijuana in the state.

Two bills would have helped state law enforcement define and set criminal charges for anyone caught with non-traditional marijuana — edibles or concentrate.

House Bill 16, which focused on edibles, was voted down on introduction to the floor 49-10-1.

Rep. Dan Zwonitzer, R-Laramie County, voted no against House Bill 16 because he felt with the bill being so controversial it would be best to keep the status quo going.

“I think my personal decision (to vote no) was that I just don’t like the bill,” Zwonitzer said. “I think you find a big divide in the house between people who think marijuana should be legalized in general recreationally in Wyoming. People think the penalty should be reduced, which is what I fall into, and then even people who think it should be stronger (punishment.)”

Wyoming was looking to lead the nation in setting precedent on non-traditional forms of marijuana, but failed to do so when Senate File 19 failed to reach the House vote.

Senate File 19, which focused on concentrates, passed all three readings of the Senate with a final vote of 19-11. However, the new bill never made it out of the judiciary committee and onto the House floor.

With the most recent failure to pass these two bills into law, it appears that Wyoming will be stepping back from trying to lead the nation on this issue.

“Well I think we are backing off a little bit because we can’t find a consensus,” Zwonitzer said. “I think now that we tried for three years and we can’t agree on anything we are probably not going to keep up the fight this year, I’m just guessing.”

Rep. Charles Pelkey, D-Albany County, said before the legislative session started that he felt like it would be a stretch for the bills to be passed in the first place. Pelkey had previously said, “I haven’t spent this much time listening to people pointlessly talk about weed since I was in high school.”

Zwonitzer said he believes that the bill will not be on the budget for the 2019 Wyoming Legislature, but does not count out the possibility of a marijuana bill being back on the budget in future years.

“The bill in its current format, I don’t think it is going anywhere,” Zwonitzer said. “We might see another run at a total decriminalization bill or at least lessening the current penalties. I would be completely surprised if there are any bills that come forward from here on out to ever increase penalties on marijuana.”

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