Freshly baked marijuana-infused cookies cool on a rack inside Sweet Grass Kitchen on June 19, 2014. The Colorado edibles bakery sells its confections to retail outlets throughout the state. (Brennan Linsley, Associated Press file)

Wyoming continues to ponder penalties for marijuana edibles

CHEYENNE — Wyoming lawmakers are weighing how to regulate marijuana edibles that increasingly are coming in from neighboring Colorado and other places that have legalized adult marijuana possession and sales.

A bill to make it a felony to possess more than 3 ounces of marijuana edibles died in the Wyoming legislative session that ended this month. Lawmakers deadlocked on how to measure the concentration and potency of marijuana and its active ingredient, THC, when it’s mixed with other ingredients in marijuana-infused foods and beverages.

The Joint Judiciary Committee is set to consider the issue again before next year.

“Frankly, it’s time the state take a comprehensive look at its marijuana laws in general, not just with edibles,” said Rep. Charles Pelkey, a committee member and Democrat from Laramie, home to the University of Wyoming. “The reality is that in Colorado, 25 miles south of our only college town, it’s legal.”

For prosecutors to charge someone with felony drug possession, marijuana must be in its original form, Cheyenne District Attorney Jeremiah Sandburg said, citing a recent state Supreme Court decision. Unless the drug’s original form can be isolated in edibles — which could well be impossible — possession of any amount of them is a misdemeanor, he said.

Sandburg’s office brought felony charges of marijuana possession against a man with nearly 2 pounds of pot candies, cookies, bread and chocolate bars. A judge dismissed the case last summer, saying felony charges would require possession of more than 3 ounces of marijuana in plant form.

Casper District Attorney Mike Blonigen said he wants to see the state change the law to create balance between penalties for possession of the drug in its plant and edible forms.

“I could have literally a semi load full of edibles, and it would only be a misdemeanor,” he said. “Now you still can’t sell them, you still can’t possess them legally.”

The Wyoming Highway Patrol has seen a steep increase in marijuana edibles in recent years since other states legalized recreational pot use, Col. Kebin Haller said. Shipments are moving north from Colorado and east from Washington state, he said.

A Wyoming college student visiting Denver jumped to his death after eating a marijuana cookie in 2014, just months after recreational sales began in Colorado, said Thomas J. Gorman, director of the Rocky Mountain High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area. The federal office coordinates law enforcement response to drug trafficking in much of Colorado, parts of Utah and southern Wyoming.

An autopsy report listed marijuana intoxication as a “significant contributing factor” in the death of the 19-year-old.

“By legalizing marijuana, we were supposed to stop the black market,” Gorman said of Colorado. “But in fact, we have become the black market for so many states around the country.”

Gorman said it’s not practical to require an analysis to determine the THC content of edibles to prosecute their possession. He noted that the law does not require an analysis of the potency of marijuana in plant form to make its possession a crime.

If Wyoming wants to make it a felony to have edibles, it could set a weight limit and stick to it regardless of the amount of the drug or THC they contain, Gorman said.

“It’s just not worth it to make it so darn complicated,” he said.