CHEYENNE -- State lawmakers defeated a bill Thursday that would have allowed doctors to prescribe a type of low-potency medical marijuana.
The House Judiciary Committee voted 5-4 to reject House Bill 78.
The legislation would have allowed Wyoming residents to receive a medication registration card if a physician said the drug could help them with their long-term pain, glaucoma or migraines.
Some legislators questioned whether the health benefits have been proven and how the state would regulate the practice.
A fiscal note attached to the bill stated it would take about 18 months for the Wyoming Department of Health to create the process to review applications for the medication registration card.
But the bill didn’t indicate how patients would buy their medicine or how the potency would be verified.
“We don’t know a lot of the particulars of how it is going to be managed,” said Rep. Bill Pownall, R-Gillette. “I do believe we have a lot of questions, and I don’t have time to go through everything. I just don’t feel like we are ready for this now.”
In contrast to the recreational or medical marijuana sold in Colorado, the drug being offered in Wyoming would have been limited in its potency.
Specifically, it would have had to contain less than 5 percent of tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, which is the main psychotic ingredient in marijuana.
And it would have had to contain at least 15 percent cannabidiol, or CBD, which studies have shown has medical benefits without producing the high usually associated with the drug.
The bill also applied only to cannabis extracts that could be ingested in a smokeless manner, such as edibles, droplets or forms that entail the use of a vaporizer.
Rep. Gerald Gay, R-Casper, the bill’s sponsor, said these requirements would have allowed users to maximize the medical benefits of the plant while limiting its hallucinogenic properties.
“They can now separate the intoxicating ingredients in the plant away from the therapeutic ingredients,” he said. “And then you are left with something quite useful for long-term pain management.”
Dr. Todd Hammond, a Casper-based doctor who specializes in pain management, said he isn’t sure whether medical marijuana is the perfect answer to treat chronic pain.
But he said it is far safer, and possibly more effective, than commonly prescribed opiates, which carry a risk of addiction or even death from overdoses.
“The fact is that thousands of people die, even people in our own state, from overdosing on opiates or children getting their parents’ opiates,” he said. “We need a better alternative to what we have currently.”
HB78 was one of several marijuana-related bills that have been introduced this session.
On Wednesday, the House of Representatives voted 38-22 to reject a bill that would have decriminalized the possession of up to an ounce of the drug.
And the House Travel, Recreation, Wildlife and Cultural Resources Committee will hear a bill today that would allow cannabidiol oil from hemp plants to be used to treat a form of drug-resistant epilepsy.