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Wyoming Marijuana Legalization Bill Sponsored By Top Republicans Expected To Get Hearing This Week

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The cannabis legalization measure is sponsored by the House speaker, Judiciary Committee chairman and other GOP lawmakers.

By Angus M. Thuermer Jr., WyoFile.com

Supporters of a sweeping bill to legalize and regulate marijuana anticipate a hearing before the House Judiciary Committee on Friday, where they hope to dispel myths and stereotypes held by resistant lawmakers.

Twelve representatives and two senators co-sponsored House Bill 209—Regulation of marijuana, which would license the cultivation and sale of marijuana and tax cannabis products, including edibles and infused drinks. Chief sponsor Rep. Jared Olsen (R-Cheyenne), chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, brought the bill only months after a majority of state residents said they support allowing adults to use marijuana without penalty.

The bill would impose a 30 percent levy on marijuana sales and generate about $47 million a year in taxes, a state analysis of the measure says. Two thirds of the tax revenue generated annually—$30.7 million—would go to the school foundation fund. The other third—$15.35 million a year—would go to the local government of the jurisdiction in which the sales took place.

The bill would license marijuana establishments that grow, test, manufacture, transport or sell marijuana. A microbusiness license would allow its holder to both grow and sell marijuana but have no more than 150 pot plants.

Wyoming lawmakers have long resisted legalization of marijuana, but the people they represent last year showed a change of heart. Since 2014, when only 37 percent of residents supported allowing adults to possess marijuana for personal use, attitudes have shifted. By December last year more than half the state—54 percent—were behind legal adult use.

“It’s time,” Sen. Cale Case (R-Lander) said.

“I’m pretty conservative, but also a strong libertarian,” Case said. “I’ve decided Rep. Olsen has really done his homework and I’m going to support him. I want it to get serious attention.”

Revenue for schools

Tax and fee revenue projections are based on Department of Agriculture estimates of 100 cultivation facilities, 50 for manufacturing, 25 for transport, five for testing plus 200 retail stores and 50 microbusinesses.

The bill would allow any adult resident to grow limited amounts of pot and consume it, but not in public.

The Department of Agriculture would oversee much of marijuana administration, according to the proposed legislation. It would adopt rules for licenses allowing use of retail marijuana at special events “in limited areas for a limited time.”

Cities, towns and counties could issue licenses for establishments and limit their number. Local governments also could prohibit marijuana establishments if 10 percent of registered voters petition for a ban.

Towns and counties could not prohibit the transport of marijuana through their jurisdictions. Numerous other provisions would prohibit establishments near schools and such.

Sponsors hope the hearing will set parameters for debate, amendments and adoption.

“I’m not under a lot of illusions it’s going to pass,” Case said of the “pretty comprehensive regulatory package.” Olsen’s bill, however, “may be the most serious framework anybody has done” in Wyoming regarding marijuana legalization and regulation.

Rep. Landon Brown (R-Cheyenne), another co-sponsor, was similarly tempered in his expectations. “Unfortunately, I have no higher belief that this bill will become law than [in] any other year,” he said.

“We have far too many in our Legislature that choose to continue to do business the old-fashioned way,” he said. “Our body refuses to acknowledge the changing world and admit that change is coming whether we like it or not.”

The hearing could open the door for deep consideration of the measure, education and advocacy, plus the dismissal of stereotypes and long-held misinformation, supporters said.

“The bill has no chance of getting through the entire process in the next four weeks,” Rep. Dan Zwonitzer (R-Cheyenne) wrote in an email. “I believe it will be used as a starting place for a year-long conversation on understanding the issue, the funding structures, and how Wyoming could regulate [marijuana] within our borders.”

Rep. Mark Baker (R-Green River), another co-sponsor, is not willing to count the legislation out this year. After a fair hearing in Olsen’s committee, “we’ll have to see what happens after that,” he said.

How much would it generate?

The Legislative Service Office based its revenue estimates on the FY 2020 marijuana sales in Colorado, adjusted for the population of Wyoming. Rep. Landon Brown (R-Cheyenne) thinks they’re overblown.

“It is a concern to me that the development and growth of government needed to implement this law would likely barely break even in my books,” he wrote. “The increase in local permitting and oversight of a substance similar to alcohol and tobacco is new and foreign to us as a state.

“[B]ut I also believe the people of Wyoming have spoken for long enough about this issue and I believe it’s time to hear them and act.”

People shouldn’t solely focus on the revenue side of the legislation, co-sponsor Baker said. “The taxes are just a small portion of it,” he said.

Not criminalizing citizens, saving court expenses, allowing residents local access to something they’re going to get anyway “would be very attractive—above and beyond any revenue,” he said. “We need to take [marijuana] out of the unregulated market and into the regulated market.

“There has been a stigma associated with the cannabis conversation—people are apprehensive about contacting their legislator,” Baker said. “It’s important to let their legislators’ know they’re not Cheech and Chong.

Baker has personal testimony. He suffered digestive disorders that required three surgeries and nine transfusions, but found a way to endure in medical marijuana. “My life is much more comfortable with cannabis than without it,” he said.

In addition to Brown, Baker, Olsen, Zwonitzer and Case, co-sponsors are Speaker of the House Eric Barlow (R-Gillette), Sen. Chris Rothfuss (D-Laramie) and Reps. Michael Yin, (D-Jackson), Cyrus Western (R-Big Horn), Pat Sweeney (R-Casper), John Romero-Martinez (R-Cheyenne), Karlee Provenza (D-Laramie), Cathy Connolly (D-Laramie) and Marshall Burt (L-Green River).

Pro-legalization lobbyist Christine Stenquist acknowledges that Olsen’s measure takes a stride beyond the usual decriminalization approach, which is to start with a baby-step of medical authorization.

“It definitely has an adult-use feel,” she said of the measure. “It’s a retail bill.

“Conservative types are upset, to say the least,” she said. “They don’t want Colorado,” she said, referring to legalization and its impacts there. Criticism will envision all sorts of woes, including invasion of the Equality State by homeless potheads and other undesirables, she predicted.

“I understand their fears,” she said of lawmakers. “I’m hoping to address those in committee.”

WyoFile is an independent nonprofit news organization focused on Wyoming people, places and policy.

2021 Sees Republican Lawmakers Take Lead On Marijuana Legalization In More U.S. States

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Senate’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Deal Aims To Let Researchers Study Marijuana From Dispensaries

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Senate leaders released a massive and long-anticipated infrastructure bill late on Sunday—and after weeks of bipartisan negotiations, the legislation includes provisions that aim to allow researchers to study the actual marijuana that consumers are purchasing from state-legal dispensaries instead of having to use only government-grown cannabis.

The bill also encourages states that have enacted legalization laws to educate people about impaired driving.

The language on scientists’ access to retail cannabis products was attached to an earlier version of infrastructure legislation in a Senate committee, and it’s substantively the same as a provision included in a House-passed infrastructure bill.

The measure makes it so the transportation secretary would need to work with the attorney general and secretary of health and human services to develop a public report within two years of the bill’s enactment that includes recommendations on allowing scientists to access retail-level marijuana to study impaired driving.

The cannabis provision stipulates that the report must contain a recommendation on establishing a national clearinghouse to “collect and distribute samples and strains of marijuana for scientific research that includes marijuana and products containing marijuana lawfully available to patients or consumers in a state on a retail basis.”

It specifies that scientists from states that have not yet enacted legalization should also be able to access to dispensary products that are being sold in jurisdictions that have ended prohibition.

Sen. John Hickenlooper (D-CO) sponsored the committee amendment that contains these reforms, and he argued that the changes are necessary in order to promote research into impaired driving and create a national standard for addressing such activity.

Advocates have been waiting to see whether the committee-approved language would make it into the bipartisan negotiated bill. And the fact that it did stay intact following extensive negotiations between Democrats and Republicans who worked to craft the deal is significant. The Senate is expected to take up the bill on the floor this week.

If it passes, the amended legislation would then need to go back to the House for consideration before heading to President Joe Biden’s desk.

The bill says the cannabis research report must also broadly examine “federal statutory and regulatory barriers” to studies on marijuana-impaired driving.

The transportation legislation also contains a separate section that would require legal marijuana states—and only those states—to consider methods of educating people about and discouraging impaired driving from cannabis. Advocates take issue with that language simply because it targets legalized jurisdictions while ignoring the fact that marijuana-impaired driving takes place regardless of its legal status.

An earlier version of the transportation bill cleared the House last Congress with identical marijuana provisions but did not advance in the GOP-controlled Senate.

Since its initial introduction last year, some steps have been taken to resolve that issue. Most notably, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) recently notified several companies that it is moving toward approving their applications to become federally authorized marijuana manufacturers for research purposes.

That marks a significant development—and one of the first cannabis-related moves to come out of the Biden administration. There is currently a monopoly on federal cannabis cultivation, with the University of Mississippi having operated the only approved facility for the past half-century.

But that move from DEA would still not free up researchers to access marijuana products from state-legal retailers in the way the transportation legislation would encourage if enacted.

While advocates are supportive of measures to reduce impaired driving, some have raised issues with the implication that legalizing cannabis increases the risk of people driving while under the influence. Research isn’t settled on that subject.

A federally funded study recently promoted by the National Institute of Justice also found that the amount of THC in a person’s system after consuming marijuana is not an accurate predictor of impairment.

Colorado Could Vote On Marijuana Tax Hike To Fund Education Programs After Campaign Submits Signatures

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Colorado Could Vote On Marijuana Tax Hike To Fund Education Programs After Campaign Submits Signatures

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A Colorado campaign appears to have submitted enough signatures to place a ballot initiative before voters in November that would raise marijuana taxes to fund programs that are designed to reduce the education gap for low-income students.

The Colorado Learning Enrichment and Academic Progress (LEAP) measure would give low- and middle-income families a $1,500 stipend to have school-aged children participate in after-school programs, tutoring and summer learning activities.

The state excise tax on sales adult-use cannabis products would increased from 15 percent to 20 percent to fund the effort.

Supporters say this policy is especially needed as a response to the coronavirus pandemic, which has exacerbated income-related learning gaps for students. But some marijuana industry stakeholders—and even the state’s largest teachers union—have expressed concern about the proposal.

In any case, the LEAP campaign turned in about 200,000 signatures for the measure to the secretary of state’s office on Friday. It only needs 124,632 valid signatures to qualify.

Monica Colbert Burton, a LEAP campaign representative, told Colorado Public Radio that the sizable signature turn-in “really demonstrates the broad support around the state for this issue.”

“The learning loss that we’ve seen during the pandemic is so much higher than we’ve ever seen before particularly for our low-income families and our students that don’t have access to the same resources,” Colbert Burton said.

Beyond imposing the extra five percent tax on cannabis, the initiative also calls for a repurposing of state revenue that it generates from leases and rents for operations held on state land. Advocates estimate that the measure would translate into $150 million in additional funding annually.

But according to an analysis from Westword, adding the tax to the existing 15 percent special tax would’ve only created $80 million in added revenue based on 2020 sales figures.

Some stakeholders and cannabis advocates have come out strongly against the proposal.

“That this initiative is being pushed at a moment in Colorado when the cannabis industry is trying to create more equity and bring economic growth to marginalized communities harmed by the racist Drug War is especially tone deaf,” Hashim Coates, executive director of the trade group Black Brown and Red Badged, said in a press release. “But that is to be expected when the backers of this measure are affluent white men.”

“Let’s just be perfectly clear: this is a regressive tax—which always harms Black and Brown consumers the most. This is going to a voucher program—which always harms Black and Brown communities the most,” Coates said. “And it’s targeting the marijuana industry as a magical bottomless piggy bank—which will devastate the Black and Brown owned cannabis businesses the most. Can we just let the black community breathe for a moment after this pandemic before we start taxing them to death?”

The measure is being endorsed by a two former governors, about 20 sitting state lawmakers, several former legislative leaders and several other educational organizations.

But in June, the Colorado Education Association withdrew its support for the proposal over concerns about how it would be implemented.

The next step for the initiative is for the secretary of state’s office to verify that there are enough valid signature in the batch LEAP supporters turned in.

This development comes days after Colorado officials announced the launch of a new office to provide economic support for the state’s marijuana industry.


Marijuana Moment is already tracking more than 1,200 cannabis, psychedelics and drug policy bills in state legislatures and Congress this year. Patreon supporters pledging at least $25/month get access to our interactive maps, charts and hearing calendar so they don’t miss any developments.

Learn more about our marijuana bill tracker and become a supporter on Patreon to get access.

The division, which was created as part of a bill signed into law in March, is being funded by cannabis tax revenue. It will focus on creating “new economic development opportunities, local job creation, and community growth for the diverse population across Colorado.”

Gov. Jared Polis (D) had initially asked lawmakers back in January to create a new a new cannabis advancement program as part of his budget proposal.

Beyond this program, the state has worked to achieve equity and repair the harms of prohibition in other ways.

For example, Polis signed a bill in May to double the marijuana possession limit for adults in the state—and he directed state law enforcement to identify people with prior convictions for the new limit who he may be able to pardon.

The governor signed an executive order last year that granted clemency to almost 3,000 people convicted of possessing one ounce or less of marijuana.

Funding for the new office is made possible by tax revenue from a booming cannabis market in the state. In the first three months of 2021 alone, the state saw more than half a billion dollars in marijuana sales.

The lack of access to federal financial support for marijuana businesses became a pronounced issue amid the coronavirus pandemic, with the Small Business Administration saying it’s unable to offer those companies its services, as well as those that provide ancillary services such as accounting and law firms.

Polis wrote a letter to a member of the Colorado congressional delegation last year seeking a policy change to give the industry the same resources that were made available to other legal markets.

California Senator Seeks Federal Clarification On Medical Marijuana Use In Hospitals

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California Senator Seeks Federal Clarification On Medical Marijuana Use In Hospitals

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A California senator is asking the head of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to provide clarification on whether hospitals and other healthcare facilities in legal marijuana states can allow terminally ill patients to use medical cannabis without jeopardizing federal funding.

State Sen. Ben Hueso (D) on Thursday sent a letter to HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra and Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) Administrator Chiquita Brooks-LaSure inquiring about the policy. Confusion about possible implications for permitting marijuana consumption in health facilities led pro-legalization Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) to veto a bill meant to address the issue in 2019.

Hueso refiled a nearly identical version of the legislation for this session, and it’s already passed the full Senate and one Assembly committee. It’s now awaiting action on the Assembly floor before potentially being sent to Newsom’s desk.

“Ryan’s Law would require that hospitals and certain types of healthcare facilities in the State of California allow a terminally-ill patient to use medical cannabis for treatment and/or pain relief,” the senator wrote in the letter to the federal officials, with whom he is asking to meet to discuss the issue. “Currently, whether or not medical cannabis is permitted is left up to hospital policy, and this creates issues for patients and their families who seek alternative, more natural medication options in their final days.”

Hospitals that receive CMS accreditation are generally expected to comply with local, state and federal laws in order to qualify for certain reimbursements. And so because marijuana remains federally illegal, “many healthcare facilities have adopted policies prohibiting cannabis on their grounds out of a perceived risk of losing federal funding if they were to allow it.”

But Hueso said that his office received a letter from CMS several months ago stating that there are no specific federal regulations in place that specifically address this issue and that it isn’t aware of any cases where funding has been pulled because a hospital allows patients to use medical cannabis.


Marijuana Moment is already tracking more than 1,200 cannabis, psychedelics and drug policy bills in state legislatures and Congress this year. Patreon supporters pledging at least $25/month get access to our interactive maps, charts and hearing calendar so they don’t miss any developments.

Learn more about our marijuana bill tracker and become a supporter on Patreon to get access.

Additionally, because the Justice Department has been barred under annually renewed spending legislation from using its funds to interfere in the implementation of state-level medical marijuana programs, the senator said, “we believe the risk of federal intervention is little to none.”

“This confirmation from CMS been quite a breakthrough and we are optimistic it will alleviate the Governor’s concerns,” the letter continues. “However, I want to underscore that, prior to receiving this response, even the Governor of California was under the impression that CMS rules prohibited hospitals and healthcare facilities from allowing medical cannabis use.”

“Undoubtedly other states are struggling with this issue, too,” it says. “As more states decriminalize cannabis and even create recreational markets, we must not forget to also update the books for the most important consumers of all—patients.”

“While ideally the federal government will remove cannabis from its Schedule I designation, I appreciate that this is a lengthy and complex process. In the interim, it would be extremely helpful if you could provide clarification that assures Medicare/Medicaid providers that they will not lose reimbursements for allowing medical cannabis use on their premises. This clarification would go a long way to help hospital staff, security, above all, patients.”

Becerra, while previously serving as California attorney general and as a member of Congress, demonstrated a track record of supporting marijuana law reform.

Meanwhile, there are efforts in both chambers of Congress to end federal marijuana prohibition.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) are currently soliciting feedback on draft legalization legislation they introduced this month.

Meanwhile, a separate House bill to federally legalize marijuana and promote social equity in the industry was reintroduced in May.

The legislation, sponsored by Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), was filed with a number of changes compared to the version that was approved by the chamber last year.

Read the letter from the California senator to Becerra below: 

Marijuana hospital letter t… by Marijuana Moment

Rhode Island House Speaker Says ‘No Consensus’ On Marijuana Legalization, But It’s ‘Workable’

Photo courtesy of Mike Latimer.

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