Bills Reducing Penalty for Misdemeanor Marijuana Possession Introduced in Wyoming House
Two proposals sponsored by state representatives and senators from both major parties in the Wyoming Legislature would draw a line between misdemeanor and felony amounts of marijuana products such as edibles while also reducing the maximum penalty for misdemeanor marijuana possession to a fine and a fine with jail time, respectively.
House Bill 157 is sponsored by Rep. Mark Baker (R-Rock Springs), Rep. Eric Barlow (R-Gillette), Rep. Scott Clem (R-Gillette), Rep. Marti Halverson (R-Etna), Rep. Tyler Lindholm (R-Sundance), Rep. Bunky Loucks (R-Casper), Rep. Charles Pelkey (D-Laramie) and Rep. Dan Zwonitzer (R-Cheyenne) in the House.
In the Senate, both Sen. Cale Case (R-Lander) and Sen. Chris Rothfuss (D-Laramie) support the measure.
Currently, Wyoming Statute 35-7-1031(c)(i) allows for sentences of up to a year in jail and a fine of $1,000.
The bill would lessen the maximum sentence for misdemeanor marijuana possession -- less than three ounces -- to a $200 civil penalty.
The proposal would also insert a paragraph into the statute, drawing a line between misdemeanor and felony amounts of marijuana products such as edibles or oils.
For marihuana product, more than five hundred (500) milligrams combined of tetrahydrocannabinol and tetrahydrocannabinolic acid.
THC is the main psychoactive chemical in marijuana and marijuana products.
The paragraph would also define "marihuana product":
a preparation, compound, mixture or substance not in plant form that contains marihuana or tetrahydrocannabinols intended for consumption or use without further preparation including, but not limited to, baked goods, candies, edibles, ointments, potable liquids, tinctures or any other similar form containing marihuana or tetrahydrocannabinols.
Included in the bill's new fiscal note is a request for the Wyoming Attorney General's Office to provide an estimate of the administrative fiscal impact before the bill is considered in committee.
According to the request, the bill has administrative impact that appears to increase duties or responsibilities of one or more state agencies, and may impact agency spending or staffing requirements.
As introduced, the bill does not modify any state agency budget or current personnel authorizations.
Should it become law, the measure would take effect July 1.
Meanwhile, House Bill 197 would allow for a penalty of up to 20 days imprisonment and a fine of up to $200.
That bill also limits misdemeanor treatment to people caught with up to three ounces in plant form or THC product of up to 8 ounces.
The measure includes steeper penalties for subsequent misdemeanor convictions. A second offense -- regardless of whether the first offense occurred in Wyoming or another state -- would allow for a penalty of up to six months imprisonment and a fine of $750.
A third conviction would land the offender in county jail for up to two years and also allow imposition of a $5,000 fine.
For a fourth conviction within 10 years, a person could spend up to five years n prison and have to pay a fine of $10,000.
The bill is sponsored by Rep. Lars O. Lone (R-Cheyenne), Rep. Mark Jennings (R-Sheridan), Rep. Jared Olson (R-Cheyenne), Rep. Bill Henderson (R-Cheyenne), Rep. Jim Blackburn, (R-Cheyenne), Rep. Scott Clem (R-Gillette), Rep. Danny Eyre (R-Lyman), Rep. Dan Furphy (R-Laramie), Rep. Bill Pownall (R-Gillette), Rep. Tim Salazar (R-Dubois) and Rep. Nathan Winters (R-Thermopolis) in the House.
In the Senate, Sen. Larry Hicks (R-Baggs), Sen. Ogden Driskill (R-Devils Tower) and Sen. Leland Christensen (R-Alta) support the measure.
A fiscal note for the bill says the fiscal or personnel impact is not determinable due to insufficient time to complete the fiscal note process.
Following its introduction Wednesday, House Bill 197 was referred to the Judiciary Committee.