Bills Clarify Penalties For Edible Marijuana

Marijuana plant and cannabis oil bottles isolated

(Gillette, Wyo.) As more states are legalizing marijuana, police are frequently encountering marijuana in edible forms.

Since penalties are based on the weight of the plant, a tray of brownies can easily way a pound or two, triggering very serious penalties if prosecuted according to plant weight.

“If we don’t do anything about this, it will make a mandatory minimum of five years,” for a tray of brownies, Campbell County Sheriff Scott Matheny said at a legislative luncheon today with county commissioners.

Matheny said the matter has become even more urgent with the recent announcement from the Attorney General Jeff Sessions that the policy of non-interference with states that have legalized marijuana will be ended.

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Even though several states have legalized marijuana, it remains illegal under federal law. Sessions’ announcement means the federal government may begin enforcing marijuana laws, and that may put pressure on state and local law enforcement.

The Senate version of the bill has specific penalties for possession in Wyoming of liquid forms packaged for commercial sale in states where the drug is legal. For anything under 36 fluid ounces, the bill calls for penalties of a year in prison, a $1,000 fine, or both. For a third offense, the jail time increases to five years and the fine to $5,000.

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Under the Senate version, the same penalties will apply to resin under three grams, or any other form under three ounces.

The House version starts out with a penalty of 20 days in jail, a fine of $200, or both for any amount not more than three ounces of marijuana in a non-plant form. On a second conviction within 10 years, the penalty is six months in jail, a $750 fine, or both. On a forth conviction, the penalty climbs to one year, a $5,000 fine, or both, and on a fifth conviction, the penalty increases to five years in jail, a $10,000 fine, or both.

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Similar bills have been introduced in previous sessions and failed to pass. Rep. Bill Pownall (R-Gillette) was at today’s luncheon and sits on the Judiciary Interim Committee, which is sponsoring the bills.

He said there was quite a bit of debate on the bills in committee. Matheny noted the criticism the Trump Administration has received nationally over Sessions’ announcement.

“Where it’s going to go, I don’t know,” Pownall said.

Pownall encouraged representatives of law enforcement to come to the sessions when the bill is heard on the floor in Cheyenne.

Originally from New Mexico, Killough began his career writing freelance for a weekly magazine in Albuquerque while completing his undergraduate degree. In addition to reporting on uranium mining in western New Mexico, he spent three years reporting in western North Dakota during the height of the oil boom. He can be reached at kevin@county17.com or 701-641-6603.