Debate Over Edible Marijuana Is Far From Over

Mar 18, 2016

On the left is a single serving of juice on the right is three ounces of Marijuana. Both jars together equal leafy marijuana.
Credit Miles Bryan

  


Last year a couple of Wyoming judges ruled that state law does not have specific penalties for marijuana-laced edibles. Wyoming law enforcement officials say that ever since Colorado legalized marijuana they are seeing more of it than ever before and so lawmakers tried and failed to address the issue during the recent legislative session. The main problem was that lawmakers got hung up on how much edible marijuana constitutes a felony and the bill died.

Despite the bill’s failure the general feeling is that if you have marijuana in Wyoming, you’ll probably get into trouble. But what kind of trouble remains to be seen. 

When it comes to leafy marijuana state law says over three ounces was a felony, anything below that is a misdemeanor. Experts in the world of pot sat that three ounces is considered a lot and can last you several months. Laramie Police Chief Dale Stalder said it’s a felony for a simple reason.

"The argument has always been that if you have over a certain amount it’s no longer considered for personal use it’s considered that you couldn’t consume of that on a personal level, you must be possessing it in order to sell it to somebody else.”

If you are going to try to convict someone of a felony which is something that is going to stick with them for the rest of their lives, I think you should go through the expense of going to a lab and getting that THC level.

Edible marijuana can be a cookie, a candy, or a drink that is infused with marijuana. It comes in all different weights and sizes. The key is how much tetrahydrocannabinol or THC is in the edible. That’s the main ingredient that gets you high. If there is a lot of THC an edible could contain the equivalent of three ounces of leafy marijuana in just a few items, or it could contain very little THC. And that’s what makes this issue tricky.  

Chief Stalder had hoped that the legislature would resolve the main issue.

“There needs to be clear language that if you are in possession of that edible, it equals marijuana and you can be prosecuted either at the felony or misdemeanor level.”

But the question is how much edible marijuana should equal a felony? Especially since the state crime lab says it has no way of determining how much THC is in an edible. In November, the legislature’s Joint Judiciary Committee randomly determined that possession of a pound of edible marijuana was a felony and something less than that was a misdemeanor. But when the legislative session started, the Senate Judiciary committee was talked into reducing that amount to three ounces. Cheyenne Attorney Tom Jubin was shocked by that decision.

“Well, it’s really kind of silly. The amount of marijuana that’s contained in the three ounces of edible material could vary considerably. It could be a tiny amount, it could be a lot. And to simply use the weight of a brownie, or a cookie, or two cookies seems preposterous.”

During Floor Debate Senator Bruce Burns expressed the same sentiment. He said the focus should be on the THC content and not the weight of the product.

“If you are going to try to convict someone of a felony which is something that is going to stick with them for the rest of their lives, I think you should go through the expense of going to a lab and getting that THC level.”

Supporters of 3 ounces argued that it is unlikely that someone with a brownie or two would ever get charged with a felony. Senator Charles Scott of Casper had grave reservations about that.

“With the attitudes I see in the society, I think a good many perfectly reasonable citizens are likely to violate this law in a small scale.  Some of them will get caught and Mr. President I think it’s unwise to rely too much on prosecutorial discretion.”

Down in Colorado an expert says that those who want the focus to be on the THC are correct. Maka Kalai  is the Director of Sales and Marketing for Organic Alternatives. It’s a dispensary, or a place you legally buy pot.  As usual, it’s busy. As he shows us around he points to a number of products in his store and says there are some that weigh a lot and contain a small amount of THC and other lighter products that are packed with THC. 

“You can see some major inconsistencies weight wise between dosage and THC wise.”    

For instance marijuana you can drink is very heavy, but it has a lot less potency than other products. He says a pack or two of much lighter gummy bears can be potent, but he said it falls well short of 3-ounces of leafy marijuana.

“To kinda associate those with what three ounces of actual flower marijuana is? It’s a little hard to believe and it’s a little hard to believe that would be a felony.”

The legislature could not agree on the right amount and will study the issue over the next several months. Laramie Police Chief Dale Stalder says it’s far from a laughing matter. 

“80 percent of the crimes that are committed in Laramie are committed while people are under the influence of drugs or alcohol.  We don’t need another legal intoxicant.”

Stalder said because marijuana levels in edibles can vary, that makes the products very unsafe. He added that they’ve already had close calls with people consuming more than they should.