Delta-8 gummies, flower, pre-rolls and vape pen are set out on a counter
Delta-8 products have become a top seller in smoke shops across Wyoming. (Madelyn Beck/WyoFile)

A bill to ban hemp substances with synthetic or “psychoactive” components is headed to the Wyoming Legislature, though many lawmakers agreed it’ll need more work when it gets there. 

“I don’t have any doubt that this is a work in progress,” said Sen. Bill Landen (R-Casper), who co-chairs the Joint Judiciary Committee. “But I like the fact that this would at least be a step in what I think is a necessary direction.”

The legislation narrowly passed the committee in a 6-8 vote, with both Democrats and Republicans voting against it.

“As much as I want to move forward with this, I have an objection to the idea that unless we’re going to do more work on this bill today, it’s not ready for prime time,” said Rep. Art Washut (R-Casper).

Six people testified virtually Monday before the Joint Judiciary Committee in Douglas. All felt the bill needed work, and only one supported a ban.  

“We have to do something other than prohibit our state growers of hemp from altering and producing this delta-8,” said Cody resident Richard Jones with Wyoming Citizens Against Normalization. “By not addressing possession of it, just manufacture, you’ve really accomplished nothing in terms of public health benefits.”

“As much as I want to move forward with this, I have an objection to the idea that unless we’re going to do more work on this bill today, it’s not ready for prime time.”

 Rep. Art Washut (R-Casper)

Others testified that lawmakers didn’t understand the benefits of cannabis plants, delta-8 extraction methods or how their bill could ban some cannabidiol products, or CBD. While several lawmakers pushed back on this CBD claim, commenters raised concerns about the terms “synthetic” and the bill’s lack of a definition for “psychoactive.” 

“There’s CBD, which is considered a non-psychoactive, but by definition, it is a psychoactive because it alters your mood state,” said Marcus Jones, operations manager for Platte Hemp Company. “It elevates your mood state.”

Lawmakers, for their part, made it clear they didn’t want to harm hemp farming or CBD. 

“If for one instance I feel this bill is going to prohibit CBD … I’m not voting for it, and I’m guessing most everybody on the committee is not going to vote for it,” said Rep. Barry Crago (R-Buffalo).

Still, lawmakers like Rep. Ember Oakley (R-Riverton) felt the committee’s intention was clear enough to move forward with the legislation.

“I think this closes a hole that we’re hearing about delta-8 being abused,” she said, specifically noting younger people who’ve used it. 

There have been reports of Cody High School students being sent to the hospital after consuming delta-8.

Revisiting delta-8

A main target of the bill is Wyoming’s booming delta-8 market, which grew out of a perceived loophole in the 2018 Farm Bill. That federal law legalized hemp, and delta-8 can be synthesized from hemp’s CBD. That process often involves synthetic substances, some of which have caused alarm among federal agencies like the Food and Drug Administration.

Delta-8 THC has a similar structure and effect as the naturally occurring delta-9 THC in marijuana — the component that can get you high. However, only delta-9 was limited to 0.3% on a “dry weight basis” in Farm Bill language, later parroted in Wyoming’s own laws. Without a specific ban, many have taken this to mean any non-delta-9 THC is allowed.

Delta-8 naturally occurs in hemp in small amounts and has many similarly structured cousins — like delta-10 — that are also marketed in Wyoming.

Synthetic THC substances are already technically illegal in Wyoming, and while most delta-8 products come from synthetic instead of natural processes, a Wyoming Crime Lab employee has testified that their tests can’t tell the two apart.

Proponents of delta-8 have argued that the product is still natural, and while synthetic chemicals are used in synthesizing the substance, they’re used in synthesizing drugs like aspirin, too.

Even federal officials have argued over whether the Farm Bill made delta-8 legal, but the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals found last year that it did. Meanwhile, Drug Enforcement Administration officials have said delta-8 isn’t legal because it’s made synthetically. Future federal rules are expected in this arena, but that’s unlikely to slow Wyoming’s roll.

Still, federal laws could put Wyoming in a tough spot, Rep. Karlee Provenza (D-Albany) suggested. The state can’t inhibit interstate commerce of a federally legal substance. If residents could still order the substance online and use it in Wyoming, Provenza said, banning retail could backfire. 

“Then we’re just harming Wyoming businesses when I can still purchase the product and use it in my home,” Provenza said. 


Monday’s public testimony elicited passion, fears and tears. 

“I will never forget the day we brought my dad home after his first round of cancer treatments,” said Max Esdale of Cheyenne. 

A father Esdale had known as a strong, hard-working and independent man now couldn’t stand on his own two feet.

“He was unable to eat, he couldn’t sleep,” he said. “The pain was just written deep in lines on his face.”

A man in a formal shirt and tie talks into a camera with air pods in
Max Esdale testifies before the Joint Judiciary Committee on Monday. (Screenshot/YouTube/Wyoming Legislature)

While Veterans Affairs helped him, Esdale said, they couldn’t talk about the marijuana plants his dad was growing illegally in his backyard. They’re something Esdale said helped him sleep, eat and made pain manageable without opioids. That was 16 years ago, and Esdale’s father is still around. 

Esdale felt lawmakers were ignoring science on the health benefits of THC and should consider regulations instead of bans. He noted that he already consumes enough coffee each day to “kill a small horse,” but that psychoactive substance is legal. 

“While I agree, there are legitimate concerns, there are good reasons to regulate, but we’ve largely found that the Legislature has been an unreceptive audience to anything but bans,” he said. 

The call for regulations was popular. (That’s not surprising given that UW polling has found Wyomingites overwhelmingly favor legalizing medical marijuana.) Paul Yohe testified on behalf of the Green Room in Casper, as well as other local store owners, saying he supported requiring certificates of analysis, or COAs. They generally involve third-party labs testing products and ensuring they include what the label says.

“We obviously don’t want you to criminalize (substances like delta-8), but all of us are OK with regulating it,” Yohe said. “With more regulation, comes more accountability. Then we’ll be able to actually see what people are using in their products.”

There was a call to support markets already in Wyoming, including delta-8 and hemp farming. One person to testify, Shane England with the Hemp Industries Association, said that total THC bans — like what’s proposed in this bill — have negatively affected hemp in other states because all the various THCs can add up to more than 0.3% of the product.  

England is also a managing partner of a hemp shop in Evanston

Former Rep. Patrick Sweeney (R-Casper) also chimed in, recommending that the age limit to buy hemp substances be increased from 18 to 21, echoing a bill proposed last year that never got a vote in committee. 

“Now, some of the operators and retailers may find that objectionable, but I think, without the ability for the lab to actually find a way to find if (delta-8 products are) naturally occurring or synthetic,” he said, this could be a way forward.

Still, Richard Jones with Wyoming Citizens Against Normalization was clear: He wants the substance banned, along with penalties for those who have and use it.

“In substance abuse prevention, one of the strategies is to prevent access to harmful products, whatever they are,” he said. 

The bill that passed the Joint Judiciary Committee on Monday will go before the rest of the Legislature, which is scheduled to begin its short budget session on Feb. 12. 

Madelyn Beck reports from Laramie on health and public safety. Before working with WyoFile, she was a public radio journalist reporting for NPR stations across the Mountain West, covering regional issues...

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  1. There are some serious flaws in this article.

    – The article you linked about Delta 8 regarding the DEA is about Delta 8 and 9 THC-O, not Delta 8 THC. THC-O is more properly called “THC Acetate”, and does not naturally occur in the cannabis plant. So that link has nothing to do with Delta 8 as the term is commonly used. There was a separate conference where a single employee of the DEA said “Delta 8 is illegal when synthesized from non cannabis materials”, but that’s still not relevant for the most part, because nobody synthesizes delta-8 from non cannabis materials. Instead it is most commonly converted from CBD using a process called isomerization, which is absolutely federally legal because it falls under the federal definition of hemp. Also, the Wyoming definition of hemp is word-for-word the same as the federal one.

    – Also, there have been multiple courts in addition to the ninth circuit that have found Delta-8 to be legal. There have been injunctions guaranteeing its sale in Texas, Arkansas, Maryland, and New York at this point. Not only it is absolutely federally legal, if a state tries to interfere with interstate commerce, they are likely to face a federal lawsuit. So, the federal legality of delta-8 is basically a settled matter at this point. It’s legal. (This could change in the 2023 farm bill which has probably been pushed to 2024, but we don’t know yet.)

    Now to my opinion… IMO it’s a very bad idea to try to ban or prohibit delta-8 possession or sales in Wyoming. First of all, since federal law guarantees interstate commerce, anyone that wants to get it can just have it shipped to their home. This means a ban would only affect Wyoming businesses. Also, the demand for delta-8 only exists because of the prohibition of marijuana. If people don’t have a legal alternative, they’ll simply drive to Colorado or Montana and visit a dispensary. Yes, that’s illegal, but since busting people no longer leads to the big prize for law enforcement of possibly finding information on a dealer, it’s largely pointless.

    I generally liken delta-8 to three two beer. It’s a lot weaker than real weed, and someone with a high tolerance probably won’t even have a satisfying experience with it. It’s a currently legal alternative that reduces the number of people smuggling dispensary products from our neighboring states.

    Also, the hemp industry is mostly in favor of being regulated. There was recently a hearing in congress where major hemp organizations asked for FDA regulation at the federal level. Almost all legitimate dealers of hemp products would not object to age gating or certificates of analysis to demonstrate safety. Many stores do it voluntarily already. But an outright ban would simply cause economic damage to companies and their employees without a net increase in safety.

    My two cents….

  2. If the polls say wyomingites overwhelmingly support the legalization of medical marijuana and the regulation of delta-8 than why are we even here? These people are paid to be our REPRESENTATIVES people.

    1. I think big drug companies are behind the fight against it. They aren’t working to cure us…just want to sell us their drugs. Take a good look who has donated to a member of this committee and you will see Pfizer as a political donor. Just follow the money to our legislators and it may explain their vote.

  3. Wyoming legislators ignoring science and the opinions of their own constituencies? You don’t say? 🙄

  4. All the sane testimony was promptly ignored and this terrible bill still has life. New data indicates that marijuana users are more empathetic and we have found 8 candidates that need to be more humane.

    Wyoming claims to be free, but the voters of Ohio spoke and my birth state has more freedoms to pursue life, liberty and happiness, but that doesn’t seem to penetrate the thick skulls of those protecting us from a plant.