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Wyoming Legislators Introduce Cannabis Decriminalization Bill

House Bill 0106, which was passed by Wyoming’s legislature, would allow for the decriminalization of small amounts and lower penalties.

Representative Mark Baker filed HB-0106 on February 15th. He was joined by 11 cosponsors including Eric Barlow, House Speaker, and Jared Olsen (House Majority Whip).

Current bill text would allow for new possession limits to cannabis that is in solid form such as edibles or ointments. Concentrated cannabis will be allowed to be no more than 30g. Liquid cannabis products are limited to 72 ounces. The bill would also create “a civil penalty for possessing specified amounts of marijuana and eliminating criminal penalties for possessing specified amounts of marijuana, eliminating use of marijuana and possession of marijuana paraphernalia as crimes; eliminating the prohibition on practitioners prescribing marijuana; amending definitions; making conforming amendments; repealing a provision; and providing for an effective date,” the bill states.

Two legalization bills were not passed in the legislative session of 2021. The Judiciary Committee passed one, with Olsen as the chairman. “With my opening remarks, I would pose this question to the committee, which is simply: is Wyoming ready to legalize marijuana?” said Olsen. “That’s the question in front of this committee, that’s the topic that this legislature has not heard for over four years now, so I think this marks an important moment in Wyoming, where we are now discussing a topic that we’ve all avoided for many years.” Unfortunately, the bill stalled in March 2021.

Advocates for legalization are collecting signatures for two initiatives on the ballot. One is aimed at legalizing medical marijuana, while another is a legislative attempt to repeal cannabis prohibition in Wyoming. NORML Wyoming is managing both of these initiatives. The national Libertarian Party has also been collecting signatures, and will be holding a Wyoming NORML Lobby Day for 2022 on February 24, 2019. Although the organization failed to collect sufficient signatures for them to be eligible for the 2022 ballot deadline, they have now set their sights on 2024.

NORML Wyoming provided promising details about its effort to respond to a Facebook comment regarding the delay in 2024. “We don’t yet have the signatures needed. We should wrap collections by the end of summer,” the organization posted. “We already have more than we got after the full 18 months last time! We are introducing both Initiatives as bills during the intervening legislative sessions, so we may see even faster action.” NORML Wyoming’s approach to decriminalization would make the first and second offenders pay a $50 fee, and other offenses would result in a $75 fine. The medical cannabis legalization initiative, currently referred to as the Wyoming Medical Marijuana Initiative (2024), would allow patients who suffer from a variety of medical conditions, such as “multiple sclerosis, ALS, AIDS, cancer, seizures, Alzheimer’s/dementia, PTSD, fibromyalgia, chronic pain, nausea/wasting, muscle spasticity, depression, anxiety, sleeplessness, and more,” to cultivate their own cannabis at home.

Apollo Pazell is the Chief Strategist for the National Libertarian Party. He said that it would make sense for legislators take over the task of writing reliable cannabis legislations. “We would prefer a legislative process,” he told the Casper Star Tribune. He also pointed out the challenges faced by fundamentalist opposition legislators. “The fundamentalist candidates have consistently taken a position against cannabis,” Pazell said. “[There are] many more fundamentalist legislators in there now than there used to be.”

The National Conference of State Legislatures reports that just over half of US states have made small amounts of marijuana legal. Wyomingans support legalizing cannabis. In a survey from 2020, conducted by the University of Wyoming, an estimated 54 percent of residents “support allowing adults in Wyoming to legally possess marijuana for personal use. This continues the steady increase in support observed from 2014, 2016, and 2018, when support rose from 37 percent to 41 percent to 49 percent, respectively.”