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CBD Is Illegal In Wyoming. Will Industrial Hemp Help Change That?

Kamila Kudelska
CBD oil sold in a store in Cody.

Cannabidiol or more commonly known as CBD has gained popularity as people use those products for anxiety, back pain and even epilepsy. CBD is currently illegal in Wyoming, but a bill on industrial hemp might resolve that problem.

Kelly Lohstreter is the manager of Smoker Friendly in Cody. She carried a number of CBD products in her store but at the end of August, she was informed that she had to pull those items off of her shelves.

"The state of Wyoming was not allowing it. Even though it was approved for all 50 states. Wyoming said no, and that was that," said Lohstreter.

Smoker Friendly is a chain of over 800 retail stores. According to a site manager at the corporation, Wyoming law enforcement tested some CBD products and said any trace of THC, which is the main psychoactive ingredient in marijuana, was illegal. So they pulled all CBD products from their store locations in Wyoming.

Lohstreter said that's not right.

"I like to carry what's popular. What works for them [the customer]. What sells. It shouldn't be illegal," she said.

Under the 2018 Farm Bill guidelines, hemp is no longer considered an illegal substance, but a crop. CBD is extracted from hemp, and the law reads any CBD product with less than .3 percent of THC is legal. But as attorney and state lawmaker Charles Pelkey said there have been felony arrests for possession of CBD.

"There are at least three, if not four, arrests in this state for people with possession of CBD oil which has less than .3 percent THC. And they were arrested for possession of marijuana in liquid form," Pelkey said.

Representative Pelkey sponsored a House bill that would have decriminalized CBD, but it was defeated in the House Judiciary Committee. Yet, another bill is pushing through the Wyoming legislature known as the Hemp Opportunity Act.

"They are operating in a market that is specialty and niche and that's an area where I think Wyoming can excel," said Christine Bekes, the executive director for the Powell Economic Partnership.

The bill would support hemp as an agricultural crop in the state. Bekes said this would give Wyoming farmers more diversification, which is key to growing the economy.

"It's an alternative crop for our growers and can provide a diversification in their rotation and then also in their revenue streams and some of the numbers around industrial hemp are pretty tremendous," she said.

According to a recent analysis by a business consulting firm, the global market for industrial hemp was $3.9 billion in 2017 and is projected to grow to $10.6 by 2025. Bekes wants Wyoming to be a leading producer, but she said there's some concern about how by-products will be regulated of having less than .3 percent THC levels.

"That's the distinctive factor between hemp and marijuana, which of course is federally illegal and in Wyoming. So while hemp is a commodity crop, it does bring with it some concerns, for example, soybeans don't have, so we do have to treat it differently," said Bekes.

Representative Pelkey said he currently doesn't have any plan to try to use the industrial hemp bill has a way to legalize the use of CBD.

Cheyenne resident Nina Hebert relies on CBD oil and patches to stop her seizures from epilepsy and she said opponents don't see CBD's medical benefits.

"Also, just rooted in old ideas about what people who use marijuana look like without giving thought to the fact that CBD doesn't make you high," she said.

Whether Wyoming will take the chance to become a game changer in the hemp industry or stays stuck in "old ideas" is anyone's guess as the bill waits to be heard on the house floor.

Kamila has worked for public radio stations in California, New York, France and Poland. Originally from New York City, she loves exploring new places. Kamila received her master in journalism from Columbia University. In her spare time, she enjoys exploring the surrounding areas with her two pups and husband.
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