The House Judiciary Committee’s vote to move House Bill 209 – Regulation of marijuana to the floor finally exposes the medical marijuana myth.
Let me explain. HB 209 is an 85-page document that, if passed, will allow full legalization of marijuana and retail sales in the state. For an unknown reason this bill is modeled after a Virginia bill that just passed a few weeks ago and is scheduled to be implemented over the next several years. In other words, an untested blueprint.
It would also make Wyoming the first state to legislatively go straight to full legalization without the Trojan Horse intermediate step of legalizing medical marijuana first. According to WyoFile, a marijuana lobbyist, Christine Stenquist, acknowledges Rep. Jared Olsen’s (R-Cheyenne) bill takes a stride beyond the usual decriminalization approach, which is to start with a baby-step of medical authorization. “This is a retail bill,” she says.
Of the 30 plus states that allow some type of medical marijuana, all but one state’s measure was accomplished by public referendum, not legislative action. The marijuana industry has targeted mostly those states that allow a public referendum because they have not had success getting laws passed through deliberative legislative bodies. The referendum process bypasses informed debate. Of those states now allowing medical marijuana, over a dozen have been subsequently successfully targeted to allow full retail marijuana, again accomplished by public referendum.
The medical marijuana myth has been shown to be the successful gateway to full retail marijuana, hence a Trojan Horse.
You may ask how this medical marijuana Trojan Horse relates to HB 209. Well, the sponsors acknowledge this bill may not pass, but it was passed out of the Judiciary Committee saying it should be brought to the floor for more debate and possible amendments. It’s a classic negotiating technique to ask for the moon (full retail) but settle for what you can get (medical).
Buried at page 48 in this bill is a medical marijuana provision under Article 5, 11‐52‐505. (Possession or distribution of marijuana for medical purposes permitted). It may be the hope from the sponsors that the poorly supported retail portions of HB 209 could be gutted by amendments leaving some type of medical exception as the heart of the bill that could get traction. This is the Trojan Horse.
This tactic exposes the myth of medical marijuana. I won’t debate the known, potential, or mythical medicinal properties of cannabis sativa. But, to be clear, whether “medical” or “retail,” it’s the same plant. Identical cannabis products are found in both retail and medical markets though they are marketed for different users. One popular emotional argument for “medical” marijuana is that people in need can’t get their “medicine.” Who wants to prevent that? That’s why polls show support for “medical” but less for retail.
However, if access to cannabis is the argument for medical, why would a bill whose stated outcome is retail access have a separate provision for medical? If one believed cannabis was medicine they could get it at any retail store, couldn’t they? Why have a separate medical provision? Trojan Horse anyone?
Interestingly, during the pandemic, several states with both retail and medical marijuana closed the retail shops but declared the medical stores essential businesses. Guess what? Applications for medical cards went through the roof. Who knew so many users needed their medicine? Really, it’s all about getting access to the drug however it’s labeled.
Wyoming citizens need to closely watch the debate on this bill. It is a complicated and extensive bill and took time to craft, however, it was filed last minute. I believe this was done on purpose so as to limit public awareness prior to the hearings by the Judiciary Committee. The hearing combined HB 209 along with the postponed hearing on House Bill 82 – Implementation requirements for medical marijuana (a medical marijuana feasibility study). As the hearing opened Chairman Olsen stated that the merits of medical marijuana were not the heart of what comments he wanted to hear on HB 209. Yet, 80% of the testimony allowed had to do with mostly anecdotal information about the benefits of medical marijuana and not the retail aspects of the bill and almost nothing on HB 82.
I guess the advancement of HB 209 should have been expected. After all, Olson was the sponsor of HB 209 and left his chair to introduce the bill. Reps. Karlee Provenza (D-Laramie), Michael Yin (D-Jackson) and Dan Zwonitzer (R-Cheyenne) were on the committee and cosponsors of this bill. That’s four votes in the bag before the hearing began.
Olsen then returned to his chair to direct the hearing on his own bill. I don’t know what the ethics involved here are, but it seems to me that a sponsor of a bill should not be involved in moving it through a committee he or she chairs. “Medical marijuana” may not be the only Trojan Horse at work here.