Marijuana decriminalization bill is a Trojan horse

Submitted by Richard Jones
Posted 2/17/22

Dear Editor:

During this current budget session, the state House has introduced HB 106 — Decriminalization of Cannabis. The sponsors of this last-minute bill are the same ones who introduced …

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Marijuana decriminalization bill is a Trojan horse


Dear Editor:

During this current budget session, the state House has introduced HB 106 — Decriminalization of Cannabis. The sponsors of this last-minute bill are the same ones who introduced a lengthy last-minute marijuana legalization bill in the last session. This bill is a Trojan horse to legalize cannabis under the guise of a “decriminalization” bill.

This bill is a thinly disguised attempt to legalize marijuana by modifying existing statutes and eliminating references to marijuana under existing state drug abuse laws. There is no specified oversight, regulatory, or public health controls recommended for marijuana. There is no attempt to mitigate known public health and safety consequences if these changes are put into law.

Using “decriminalization” as the deceptive title does not reveal the content of the bill. In addition, there is nothing in this bill that relates to the budget. 

“Decriminalization” is not “legalization.” The popular drive for reforming cannabis laws is based on the myth that using/possessing small amounts of cannabis results in the unfair incarceration of thousands. In the current “social justice” language of reform, “decriminalization” usually is defined as removing “criminal” (meaning jail) penalties for the first time use or possession of very small amounts of cannabis and implementing civil penalties (fines).

This does not make it “legal” to use or possess cannabis, nor have large quantities, nor sell and manufacture cannabis products, etc. Usually, there are increased penalties for subsequent offenses and these may cross over to criminal penalties. 

HB 106 is either poorly or cleverly written to exempt marijuana from most of the current Wyoming statutes regulating controlled substances thereby “legalizing” marijuana by calling it decriminalization. 

Under definitions in this bill, marijuana is specifically excluded several times in reference to a “controlled substance” and certain quantities are specifically exempt from the current federal Schedule I definition, making marijuana illegal in any quantity. This is in direct conflict with federal law. By changing this definition, any references in existing or proposed Wyoming statutes concerning use, possession, penalties, etc., related to all “controlled substances” will not now apply to marijuana. In effect, this can be construed as legalizing marijuana.

HB 106 also eliminates language that concerns the prohibited use of marijuana as “medicine” without proper FDA approval. This is a basic public health and safety issue. Legitimate medicines require FDA approval, not public opinion.

As to decriminalization? The bill then goes on to the penalties for use/possession of a “controlled substance” and defines certain quantities that trigger limits. However, marijuana has already been exempted as a “controlled substance” in the definitions and is specifically exempted from penalties for subsequent offenses. Therefore, all the penalty references — including specified amounts for marijuana — do not apply because they only apply to “controlled substances” where marijuana is exempt. So even though the penalties look good, they just don’t apply to marijuana. This bill is “no penalties” for marijuana.

Even still, if the penalties did apply to marijuana, and were determined by specific quantities, the definitions of quantities are too vague to be enforced. There is no reference to potency or percentage of psychoactive ingredients, only the raw weight of a category. 

This bill removes marijuana users from penalties under 35-7-1039 (Person using or under the influence of controlled substances). Not only is marijuana exempt in the basic definition of “controlled substance” it is specifically exempt under this section (“a controlled substance listed in Schedule I, except marijuana”). This is a major public safety issue. It would be legal to be under the influence of marijuana. 

The bill modifies 35-7-1040 (planting, cultivating or processing peyote or opium poppy) to allow the growing of “marijuana in amounts that [do not] exceed the amount listed in W.S. 35-7-1031(c)(vi).” This now allows what may be called “home grown.” This would be in conflict with amounts allowed to possess since those small quantities cannot be practically grown. This bill is so poorly written it does not even agree with itself. 

Not only is this bill poorly written from a technical point, but it’s deceptive in its intent and shows a disregard for the intelligence of the voters. The sponsors should be ashamed.

Richard Jones