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Pot 'edibles' hot interim topic for state legislators for legislators during interim work

Apr 8, 2016 By Christina George, Staff Writer

The Wyoming Legislature this year tried with at least three bills to pass laws on possession of marijuana edibles.

Attempts included consideration what amount of the drug should determine a misdemeanor versus a felony charge, and what kind of sentence is handed down after a conviction.

All of these attempts failed.

But county officials say cases of marijuana edibles are rare in Fremont County, so they aren't too worried lawmakers failed to pass legislation concerning new forms of the drug.

"Off the top of my head, I can think of maybe one or two cases that came to our office in the last 15 months," Fremont County Attorney Pat LeBrun said.

"I am for one happy they killed the bill because it was getting too complex and messed up that I don't think it was applicable by the end," said Fremont County Sheriff Skip Hornecker.

Colorado border

Hornecker said the effort stems from the increase in cases in southeastern Wyoming due to the close proximity to Colorado, where marijuana is decriminalized.

"The concern was, is that it's very hard to prosecute on edibles because the current laws are structured around the weight as far as a misdemeanor and a felony as it applies to marijuana, so it was very difficult to apply the concentration in an edible and prosecute under current statute," he said.

"It creates difficulties of citing for and prosecuting a person who is in possession of marijuana edibles."

LeBrun said when controlled substances are prosecuted, statute tells prosecutors to determine whether the substance is in plant, powder or liquid form. He said the District Court in Cheyenne ruled certain edibles do not fit within any of the three categories.

"The District Court in Cheyenne is certainly very persuasive authority. However, I do not believe its ruling is binding to our district," he explained. "

A Supreme Court ruling would be binding. In the meantime, I personally believe that 'edible' brownies, at least, would still fit within plant form.

"Again, these cases are pretty rare in Fremont County. However, I would still continue to prosecute them because they contain a controlled substance - THC," LeBrun added.

THC - or tetrahydrocannabinols - is the main active ingredient in marijuana.

'Clueless'

State Rep. Lloyd Larsen, R-Lander, said he struggles with understanding amounts of marijuana and how much is in an edible.

"I am just clueless on that," he said. "I know that you put in eggs and a little vanilla and sugar, and how much do they put of that stuff (marijuana), I don't know."

Larsen said the bill became too confusing.

"Pretty soon we're making this bill into something, it becomes almost incomprehensible, and so it's better to throw our hands up and get a better understanding and come back," he said.

"I would rather have a good bill than one they look at and say, 'What on earth is this.'"

Defense amendment

State Sen. Cale Case, R-Lander,tried twice to amend the bill at session. He wanted to allow any person charged under the bill the opportunity to prove that the amount of marijuana in the edible did not warrant a felony charge.

"I can't believe that folks wouldn't accept what I thought were decent amendments, including one that offered a defense," Case said. "That was a situation where we have a bad situation now because there's a void in the law, but the fix would have been worse. It's still something we need to fix, and we need to revisit it for next session."

'A lot of THC'

LeBrun said he hopes a law defining edibles takes into consideration the actual amount of controlled substance within the brownie, cookie or other food or drink item.

"As I understand it the typical 'cookie' purchased in Colorado may have as many as 10 doses," LeBrun said. "That's a lot of THC, and a user might not realize the potency."

Hornecker concurred, adding his other concerns with edibles is their form such as candy, which is attractive to children.

"I certainly have a fear of a kid, young person, getting a hold of gummy bears, not knowing that it's not just a plain gummy bear and getting pounded with the THC content," he said.

Hornecker is optimistic the Legislature will revisit the issue in 2017.

"We are still kind of wide open on it, and it almost begs the question now, with the difficulty of prosecution, does it make it to some extent legal?" he asked. "I don't see it that way, but some do."

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