Wyoming House Judiciary Committee Skips Medical Cannabis Bill, Goes Straight to Approving Adult-Use Bill Instead

While a state medical program proposal did not gain endorsement, a full-legalization bid cleared the committee by a 6-3 vote.

March 17, 2021

Christopher Boswell | Adobe Stock
No state in the country has implemented an adult-use cannabis program before a medical cannabis program, but don’t tell that to the Wyoming House Judiciary Committee.

The nine-member committee entertained two cannabis-related bills during a meeting March 12, including one that would require the state health officer to establish a report on the implementation of a medical program, according to the Wyoming Tribune Eagle. But the other proposal, a full-legalization bill that provides a roadmap to adult-use implementation, won the committee’s endorsement, 6-3.

Sponsored by Republican House Majority Whip Jared Olsen, House Bill 209 includes a 30% excise tax on the sale of adult-use cannabis and cannabis products. Clearing the Judiciary Committee, which Olsen chairs, the bill is now on its way to the House floor for further debate.

According to a fiscal note attached to H.B. 209, the tax would generate in excess of $46 million dollars. Roughly $30.7 million of that revenue would be allocated to public schools through the School Foundation Program fund, and $15.3 million would go to local governments for fiscal 2022, 2023 and 2024—the note did not include projections beyond three years. The Wyoming Department of Revenue derived those estimates from 2020 cannabis sales in neighboring Colorado, adjusting for its own state’s population.

While Wyoming state law currently only allows for the sale and use of cannabidiol (CBD) products, Wyomingites who live in the state’s capital city of Cheyenne are within 10 miles of the fully legalized Colorado border.

Another added revenue stream, the Wyoming Department of Agriculture figures H.B. 209 would generate north of $2 million from licensing fees for the estimated 100 cultivation facilities, 50 manufacturing facilities, 25 secure transporters, five testing facilities, 200 retail stores and 50 microbusinesses per the proposed bill, according to the attached fiscal note.

H.B. 209 already has 11 co-sponsors in the 60-member House, including seven Republicans, three Democrats and one Libertarian, as well as a pair of senators. But a companion bill may face more scrutiny.

Last month, the upper chamber introduced Senate File 90, which would prohibit the sale of smokable hemp to anyone under the age of 21 and prohibit using smokable hemp in public.

Regardless of where the state legislature lands this legislative cycle, Wyomingites’ appetite for cannabis legalization doesn’t appear to be subsiding any time soon.

According to a December 2020 study released by the Wyoming Survey and Analysis Center (WYSAC) at the University of Wyoming, 54% of state residents support adult-use cannabis legalization—a steady increase the center observed from 2014, 2016 and 2018, when support rose from 37% to 41% to 49%, respectively.

In addition, 85% of Wyoming residents support legalization of cannabis for medical use, according to WYSAC.