By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily
It is not the state’s responsibility to prove that a leafy green substance a man was caught with met federal definitions of marijuana, according to Wyoming’s Supreme Court.
The court unanimously ruled that a man who argued that the prosecution must prove he had marijuana in his possession is actually the one responsible for showing he did not have it.
Justices found that Alfonso Roman was responsible for proving the green, leafy substance found in his pocket after being stopped by police was did not contain enough THC to be considered marijuana, due to a Wyoming state statute which “unambiguously places the burden to prove exemptions or exceptions to the act on the person claiming such exemption or exception…”
“There was sufficient evidence to support Mr. Roman’s conviction for possession of marijuana,” the ruling said.
According to the ruling, Roman was arrested after fleeing from police and when he was searched, officers found substances believed to be marijuana and methamphetamine in his pockets. He was later charged with possession of meth and marijuana, along with interference with a peace officer.
A jury found him guilty of all three charges. But in his appeal Roman argued that the state had the burden of proving the marijuana-like substance in his pocket actually had a THC concentration of 0.3% or more.
Roman claimed that since the state had failed to prove the substance to be marijuana, there was insufficient evidence to support his conviction for marijuana possession. He claimed the substance was hemp, which under federal law must have a THC concentration of less than 0.3%.
It was noted in the court documents that Roman was initially charged with two misdemeanors for possession of marijuana and methamphetamine, but the charges were upgraded due to him having two prior convictions for possession of controlled substances.
The court documents also said that Roman filed a motion for a new trial based on newly-discovered evidence. He argued that the federal Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018 required the state to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the substance he possessed had a THC concentration of more than 0.3% to qualify as marijuana.
There was no debate about the methamphetamine-like substance found in his other pocket, though.