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Jones: The 'medical' marijuana myth

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Richard Jones

Richard Jones has worked as an EMT, in law enforcement, as branch director of training for state corrections, and as a research assistant and psychometrist in neuropsychology at a rehab hospital. He and his wife now run a consultancy focused on substance abuse prevention management education and strategies. He lives in Cody.

Moving House Bill 209 to the floor finally exposes the “medical” marijuana myth. Let me explain. HB209 is an 85 page document that, if passed, will allow full retail marijuana in the state. For an unknown reason this bill is modeled after a Virginia bill just passed a few weeks ago 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 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 were 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 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 HB209. 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 HB209 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 whether it’s “medical” or “retail,” it’s the same plant. All products made from Cannabis 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 that goes directly to 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 HB209 along with the postponed hearing on HB082 (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 HB209. 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 HB082.

I guess the moving on of HB209 should have been expected. After all, Chairman Olson was the sponsor of HB209 and left his chair to introduce the bill. Committee members Provenza, Yin, Zwonitzer were cosponsors of this bill. That’s four votes in the bag before the hearing began.

Chairman 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 they chair. “Medical marijuana” may not be the only Trojan Horse at work here.

Richard Jones has worked as an EMT, in law enforcement, as branch director of training for state corrections, and as a research assistant and psychometrist in neuropsychology at a rehab hospital. He and his wife now run a consultancy focused on substance abuse prevention management education and strategies. He lives in Cody.

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