By Jim Angell, Cowboy State Daily
Proponents of two initiatives aimed at changing Wyoming’s marijuana laws have cleared their first hurdle in placing a citizen-backed initiative on Wyoming’s ballot for the first time since 1996.
The national Libertarian Party and state Rep. Marshall Burt, L-Green River, have won conditional certification from the Wyoming Secretary of State’s office to collect the signatures needed to place their proposed new state laws on the 2022 general election ballot.
The backers must first collect 100 signatures of “sponsors” for their initiatives, which would, if approved by voters, reduce the penalties for marijuana use and possession and allow its use for medical purposes.
If the 100 signatures from registered Wyoming voters are submitted to the Wyoming secretary of state’s office within the next 30 days and confirmed, the groups can begin collecting the more than 41,000 signatures needed to put the measures on the ballot.
The proposed state law having to do with medical use of marijuana would create the Wyoming Patient Cannabis Act, which would allow for the purchase, growth, extraction, production and sale of marijuana products for medical purposes.
Under the act, people could obtain marijuana products for “debilitating medical conditions” only with a prescription and the sale of products would be regulated by the Wyoming Liquor Division.
It would also allow for the establishment of medical marijuana dispensaries, along with cultivation and manufacturing facilities.
The second measure would reduce the penalties for marijuana use and possession from a jail sentence of up to one year and a fine of up to $1,000 to a fine of $50 with no jail sentence in most cases. Possession of more than four ounces of marijuana would be subject of a fine of up to $500.
The raising of marijuana would be punishable by a fine of up to $200.
The backers of the measures must collect 41,776 signatures on petitions for each measure, equal to 15% of the number of votes cast in the November 2020 general election. In at least 16 of the state’s 23 counties, backers will have to collect a number of signatures equal to 15% of the votes cast in the general election in that county.
The required numbers range from 199 signatures in Niobrara County to 6,786 in Laramie County
.If the signatures are collected and confirmed, it will mark the first time in more than 25 years a citizen-launched initiative has won a spot on the ballot.
The last such initiative in 1996 proposed a constitutional amendment that would have required candidates for the state’s Legislature to post a statement next to their names on ballots indicating whether they supported term limits.
The measure failed to win the necessary number of votes and was defeated.
If the measures are placed on the ballot, each will have to receive a majority of all votes cast in the election — not just a majority of votes cast for the measures themselves. In other words, not voting on a measure would be the same as a “no” vote.
This is not the first time a measure has been proposed in Wyoming to legalize the medical use of marijuana. The “Peggy A. Kelly Wyoming Cannabis Act” was proposed to appear on the 2018 ballot, however, backers failed to collect the signatures needed by a Feb. 14, 2017 deadline.