Legalizing Weed in Wyoming

Now that Colorado has legalized weed, can other libertarian-minded Western states be far behind? To some, legalizing weed in Wyoming may seem far fetched, however, others disagree.

Voters and politicians there are conservative to say the least. However, legalizing weed in Wyoming may be coming sooner than you think.

The newly formed Wyoming chapter of NORML has launched a petition drive to make recreational weed legal in that state. The drive seeks to gather enough petitions to put legalized pot on the statewide ballot in 2016.

Christine Jackson, executive director of NORML in Wyoming, said the state’s libertarian tilt could make residents amenable to legalized pot.

“We don’t like being told what to do by the federal government,” she said. “And Wyoming doesn’t like regulations and having our money go somewhere else.”

Jackson pointed out that overzealous marijuana laws cost the state millions and turn innocent people into criminals. According to the ACLU, 93 percent of marijuana arrests in Wyoming – and 60 percent of all drug arrests – are for simple pot possession. To many who live there, legalizing weed in Wyoming is starting to sound like an appealing option.

Possession of less than three ounces of weed in Wyoming is a misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in jail and a $1,000 fine. Using or being under the influence of marijuana carries a penalty of up to 90 days in jail and a fine of $100. There are no medical pot laws.

“There are way too many people in jail over possessing minor amounts of marijuana,” Jackson said. “All we are doing is sending them to jail and making them better criminals.”

“There are way too many people in jail over possessing minor amounts of marijuana,” Jackson said. “All we are doing is sending them to jail and making them better criminals.”

Christine Jackson
Executive Director, Wyoming NORML

NORML has the support of the ACLU in its fight to make cannabis legal. According to the civil liberties group, Wyoming spends $9 million a year to enforce its marijuana laws. That means only three other states and Washington, D.C., spend more per capita to lock up stoners.

“It’s an individual’s choice, and by all accounts it is not harmful in small, personal amounts,” said Linda Burt, executive director of the ACLU of Wyoming, “We liken it to having a drink in your own home.”

NORML and other pot proponents may have a hard time winning over lawmakers. Many of them, including Gov. Matt Mead, a Republican and former federal prosecutor, are staunchly opposed to legalization.

“One of the arguments, of course, you hear with regard to marijuana is that it’s no worse than alcohol,” Mead said at a news conference. “I don’t necessarily agree with that. But even if that was the case, I am not interested in adding another substance that we have to fight with from everything to driving impaired to the other social costs that go with it.”

NORML disputed that position, pointing out that marijuana consumption has never been linked to death while alcohol is a frequent killer.

“Alcohol is much more of a problem than pot,” added Sabrina Giesler, secretary of the Wyoming chapter, “There has not been one recorded death in all of mankind attributed to marijuana. Even eating peanuts kills more people each year.”


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