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Marijuana is illegal in Wyoming, but that's not the case for its neighbor to the south, Colorado. Since Colorado legalized recreational pot in 2014, police in Wyoming have been dealing with an influx of marijuana in all kinds of forms. As Wyoming Public Radio's Bob Beck reports, that has complicated matters in the legislature there.
BOB BECK, BYLINE: Wyoming's drug laws don't take into account popular edible and drinkable forms of marijuana. Wyoming makes 3 ounces of leafy marijuana a felony, but when lawmakers tried to make 3 ounces of edible marijuana a felony, there was outrage. State Representative Charles Pelkey.
CHARLES PELKEY: You know, we can talk about the minutiae of this topic, but the fundamental problem is whether or not you want to charge someone as a felon for bringing a 16-ounce, THC-laden drink back into the state of Wyoming.
BECK: For those of you wondering, tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, is responsible for marijuana's psychological effects. It's what gives you a high. The problem is that some forms of edible marijuana have a lot of THC, and some don't. All forms of edible marijuana have other ingredients such as butter, oil and sugar.
MAKA KALAI: Let's see.
BECK: Maka Kalai is the director of sales and marketing for Organic Alternatives, which is a place where you can purchase pot in Fort Collins, Colo. In some ways, it looks like a candy store with chocolate and gummy bears laced with THC. There's also a wide variety of traditional forms of cannabis. He says 3 ounces of pot that you smoke is a lot.
KALAI: It would absolutely take me at least three months if not six months to finish 3 ounces of cannabis.
BECK: Which is why it's a felony in Wyoming because it's assumed that much marijuana will be sold. But it wouldn't take Kalai six months to finish a pot brownie. The Wyoming legislature will consider two bills this session, and neither takes it easy on edibles. One would make 3 ounces of edible marijuana and 36 ounces of liquid marijuana a felony while the other bill would make 3 ounces a felony but lessen penalties for first and second offenders. The tough stance is because law enforcement sees dangers with edibles. John Knepper of the Wyoming attorney general's office says people often eat more than the recommended serving.
JOHN KNEPPER: One of the things that the edible marijuana industry has taught us is that if you want to sell a psychoactive substance, a really effective way is to bundle it with chocolate because that's something people like.
BECK: Laramie Defense Attorney Cole Sherard fears countless felony charges over small amounts of marijuana. Wyoming State Crime Lab says it can't measure for THC, and THC levels on labels is hearsay and inadmissible in court. But Sherard says they need to figure it out.
COLE SHERARD: I think there's enough literature and research out there where you can at least get some idea of how much are in these edible products and try to compare those to our current statutes and try to come up with something a little more fair.
BECK: Representative Pelkey says the legislature has wasted too much time on the issue and thinks they should move to decriminalize Wyoming's marijuana laws.
PELKEY: You know, I haven't spent this much time listening to people pointlessly talking about weed since I was in high school.
BECK: The full legislature will once again consider the issue next month. For NPR News, I'm Bob Beck in Laramie.
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