House Bill 0106 was introduced to the Wyoming legislature to potentially decriminalize small amounts of cannabis and reduce possession fines, if passed.
HB-0106 was filed by Representative Mark Baker on February 15, in addition to 11 co-sponsors, which includes House Speaker Eric Barlow and House Majority Whip Jared Olsen.
According to the current bill text, if passed, cannabis in solid form, such as edibles, ointments, and tinctures would receive new possession limitations. Liquid-form cannabis products would be limited to 72 ounces, and concentrated cannabis would be set at a maximum of 30 grams. 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.
In the 2021 legislative session, two legalization bills failed to pass. One was passed by the Judiciary Committee, which was led by Olsen in the role of 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.
Aside for the legislative effort to decriminalize cannabis in Wyoming, signatures are currently being gathered by advocates for two ballot initiatives to legalize; one aimed at decriminalizing cannabis, and another striving for medical cannabis legalization. Both initiatives are managed by NORML Wyoming and the national Libertarian Party, which has been actively collecting signatures and is holding a Wyoming NORML Lobby Day 2022 on February 24. The organization did not collect enough signatures to qualify for the ballot deadline for 2022, but have since set their sights on 2024 as a new goal.
In response to a comment on Facebook regarding the 2024 delay, NORML Wyoming shared promising information about the effort. “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.
Chief Strategist of the national Libertarian Party, Apollo Pazell, confirmed that it would be ideal for legislators to take on the responsibility of crafting reliable cannabis bills. “We would prefer a legislative process,” he told the Casper Star Tribune. However, he also noted the challenge of opposition fundamentalist 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.”
According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, a little over half of the states in the US have decriminalized small amounts of cannabis. Residents in Wyoming are in support of 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.”
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