By Jim Angell, Cowboy State Daily
Backers of proposed ballot initiatives that would legalize the medical use of marijuana and reduce penalties for the use and possession of marijuana in Wyoming have won approval to begin collecting signatures to put the measures on the ballot.
Apollo Pazel, chief strategist for the Libertarian Party in Wyoming, said some volunteers are already in place to begin collecting the more than 41,000 signatures that will be needed to earn the two proposals a spot on the ballot during the 2022 general election.
“We have teams of paid canvassing volunteers and they’re already on the ground just waiting for their orders,” he told Cowboy State Daily.
Wyoming’s Secretary of State on Wednesday certified the signatures of “cosponsors” needed to begin the signature collection process.
Under Wyoming law, after an initiative has won conditional approval for inclusion on the ballot, backers must collect at least 100 signatures of “cosponsors” so the work of collecting signatures to put the issue on the ballot can begin.
The cosponsor signatures were certified less than a week after the secretary of state’s office gave its conditional approval for the measures.
“There is a lot of excitement” Pazel said. “We actually had more than 2,000 people sign up to be the cosponsors, so we had far more than we needed.”
Signature collection can begin once the attorney general’s office approves the summaries of the two ballot measures that will accompany the petitions. After approval, the Libertarian Party will print the petitions.
Pazel said it is possible the petitions could be out to the public soon.
“The secretary of state is moving very fast,” he said. “We were actually anticipating that the certification would be later.”
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.
Pazel said the backers will use a combination of the canvassing volunteers and teams in place in 18 of the state’s counties to collect the signatures.
“The Libertarian Party is very adept at collecting signatures,” he said. “It has to collect hundreds of thousands of signatures (to win state ballot spots). We’re optimistic this is a low number for us.”
The party has done preparatory work such as polling to determine where support for the two measures might be the highest, Pazel said.
If the backers can collect the needed signatures, the measures would be the first citizen-backed initiatives to appear on a Wyoming ballot since 1996.
“It’s a daunting task, it’s an exciting task,” Pazel said.
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.