By Ellen Gerst
Via- Wyoming News Exchange
CASPER — A second Wyoming bill related to marijuana advanced out of the House Judiciary on Thursday after a 6-3 vote.
Public comment for House Bill 82, which would authorize funding for a report on medical marijuana, was given at the same time as that for House Bill 209, a full legalization effort, on March 12.
The medical marijuana bill’s sponsor, Rep. Bill Henderson, R-Cheyenne, said March 12 that as Wyomingites become increasingly more supportive of medicinal uses of the drug, it makes sense to start learning about it now to be able to develop good policy down the road.
The study would involve the public, he said, including those who would benefit from marijuana being available as treatment. In its current version, the bill aims to allocate $30,000 to the report.
The House Judiciary Committee amended the bill before their vote, adding a clause that would send the completed report to the Joint Judiciary Committee in addition to the Joint Labor, Health and Social Services Committee during the interim.
The bill’s three no votes came from Reps. Art Washut, R-Casper; Dan Laursen, R-Powell; and Rachel Rodriguez-Williams, R-Cody. The same three were the only no votes on the legalization bill.
Rodriguez-Williams said March 12 she would vote no on legalization “for several thousand reasons”, and raised concerns Thursday about the funding for the proposed study.
“I have a problem with using tax dollars to fund a study bill on a Schedule I drug,” she said Thursday. “That’s not the place of this body.”
Dr. David Bearman, a California-based medical cannabis expert, testified March 12 that although the drug is illegal federally, it has been commonly used as a treatment in the United States for more than a century. In the 1920s, Bearman said his father, a pharmacist, frequently wrote prescriptions for medications containing marijuana.
Representatives from the Wyoming Medical Society told the committee that physicians have no power to prescribe marijuana in the same way they would another drug. In states where cannabis is legal for medical use, doctors can “recommend” it to patients and direct them to a medical dispensary, rather than writing a prescription for pickup at a pharmacy.
During the public comment period last week, several people testified to their own experiences with medical marijuana, or instances where it’s helped people close to them.
Rep. Karlee Provenza, D-Laramie, who sits on the committee and is a co-sponsor of the legalization bill, said March 12 that when her mother and uncle were diagnosed with stage four cancer, her mother chose to use marijuana as part of her treatment while her uncle did not. She said her mother is now five years cancer-free.
“My uncle has died,” Provenza said. “He couldn’t stay well.”
Testifying from his home in Wyoming, former Rhode Island Gov. and Sen. Lincoln Chafee said that he inherited a medical marijuana law when he became governor. Rhode Island would have benefited from a more complete approach, he said, in support of total legalization because of the revenue benefits it would bring.
The bill’s appropriations will now be examined before it heads to the House floor for discussion.