Time was, all a cowboy had for his pain was a campfire, a bottle and a song. Someday soon, add a spliff.
Legal marijuana may be on its way to Wyoming, a state known equally for its open ranges and its hostility to liberalism. If not the next election or the one after that, supporters say, it will happen soon.
For one thing, Wyoming is sandwiched between two states that allow weed: Montana, which has medical marijuana, and Colorado, which also allows recreational cannabis.
Some Wyoming residents already drive to Montana to get pot prescriptions. Taking the drug back to Wyoming is illegal, but for some, the medicine is worth the risk. Many others will travel to Colorado to get weed once it’s legal there. Again, they’re not supposed to bring it back, but that won’t stop many of them.
The law in Wyoming is much tougher than in either of those states. Possession of up to 3 ounces of pot in Wyoming carries a maximum penalty of one year in jail and a $1,000 fine. In Montana, possession of up to 60 grams (which is slightly more than 2 ounces) carries a penalty of six months in jail and a $500 fine.
In Colorado, meanwhile, purchase, use and possession of any amount up to an ounce by an adult over age 21 is legal. No matter how hard they try, police in Wyoming and the cannabis industries in Montana and Colorado won’t be able to stop all pot from crossing the border.
That’s a great argument for legalizing all weed everywhere, but some pot advocates are taking things a bit slower.
State Rep. Sue Wallis, a Republican, has said she plans to sponsor legislation to legalize medical marijuana in Wyoming. Other lawmakers have said they look forward to the discussion.
Meanwhile, the state’s NORML chapter is seeking to put full legalization on the ballot in 2016. The group filed paperwork with the state Dec. 30 and is collecting the signatures needed to put the issue before voters.
There’s scarce evidence of where Wyoming residence stand on legalization: The state is too small for most polling organizations to bother. But most Wyomingans supported MMJ a decade ago, and support for marijuana nationally has only increased in the years since.
In other words, Wyoming may be a long shot, but it isn’t that long.
“I think there’s a greater likelihood than people are projecting,” said Christine Christian, director of NORML’s Wyoming chapter. “We’re seeing more and more across the country that legislators are legalizing the medical. There are many people here that want medical marijuana. There are many people here that want hemp. There are many people here that want to use it recreationally.”
The state spent more than $9 million on marijuana enforcement in 2010, according to the ACLU. More than 2,200 people were arrested for marijuana offenses that year, almost all of them for simple possession, almost none of them for selling or cultivation.