Marijuana bills miss deadline, die in the House

Recreational and medical marijuana will not be legalized during the 2021 Legislative Session.

Two marijuana-related bills both missed the March 22 deadline for initial consideration within their chamber of origin, the Wyoming House, effectively killing both measures this time around.

House Bill 209 (HB209), if it had passed, would have legalized the regulation, sale and use of marijuana within the State of Wyoming.

House Bill 82 (HB082) had called for a study to identify medical conditions that benefit from the use of marijuana as well as to provide a timeline for drafting and implementing regulations for medical marijuana.

This latest revelation comes after both bills were moved out of the House Judiciary Committee the previous week, HB209 on March 12 and HB082 on March 19, with favorable recommendations that they pass the House.

HB082 had also previously been referred to the House Appropriations Committee and received a similar recommendation.

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During their time in committee, both bills had been a point of contention with committee members hearing testimony from individuals both for and against the legalization of medical and recreational marijuana.

Luke Niforatos, executive director of Smart Approach to Marijuana, asserted that legalizing marijuana would lead to more crime within the state and a surge of youthful offenders.

Marijuana is dangerous; cannabis companies would never advertise that nor would legalizing it provide significant tax revenue for the state, Niforatos said March 12.

Justin Arriola, a Utah medical marijuana advocate, argued against Niforatos’ position, advising the House Judiciary Committee that, in order for marijuana to significantly harm anyone, one would need to consume nearly six tons of marijuana product.

Youth marijuana use has also declined in light of regulation in other states, Arriola said, adding that anyone who says otherwise is playing into a fear tactic that has been pumped into the hearts and minds of Wyoming people.

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“I think you’re right in looking at this as an opportunity for you guys to take control of a substance that is already in your state, already being used, and the fact that you can control the narrative before it comes knocking at your door…being able to set sensible policy around regulation would be a very smart move and very progressive,” Arriola said.

Frank Latta, formerly the mayor of the City of Gillette, also testified that day of his positive experience with medical marijuana, recommended by physicians, in his battle with multiple sclerosis.

Because of an inability to purchase medical marijuana in Wyoming, Latta said, he was forced to overcome an opioid addiction when it would have been simpler to purchase a naturally-occurring plant.

Latta had implored the committee move the legislation onto the House floor, stating that it was about time they “quit kicking it down the road.”

However, by failing to discuss the measures in time for the General Session, the House has done just that, which means marijuana will remain an illegal controlled substance for the foreseeable future.