By Jimmy Orr, Cowboy State Daily
On the unofficial holiday for marijuana enthusiasts (April 20), a former Republican state senator who supports legalizing marijuana said Wyoming will never OK the drug until the federal government steps in.
Bruce Burns, who represented Sheridan in the Legislature from 1995 – 2018 and sponsored legislation that would have legalized medical marijuana, said Wyoming is far too conservative for the drug to be made legal in the state without changes in federal law.
“The only way it will ever be legalized in Wyoming is if it’s on the federal level,” Burns told Cowboy State Daily on Wednesday.
“Because Wyoming is such a Republican state, the real competition is in the primary,” he said. “So there’s a race to be bottom, so to speak, to see who can be the most conservative.”
As a result, he said, the Wyoming Legislature is more conservative than the people its members represent. Conversely, elected bodies in California and Massachusetts are more liberal than the people they represent, he said.
Conservative Versus Libertarian
And there’s a difference, he said, between conservative Republicans and Libertarian Republicans. The latter are more open to legalization because they believe in less government.
That’s where Burns puts himself on the political spectrum and, as such, sponsored legislation that would have legalized medical marijuana.
The effort failed, he said, because of politics.
“Marijuana has good medicinal uses,” he said. “But it’s being ignored because of the political view of marijuana.”
Burns said he saw first-hand the positive applications of the drug when he, at the request of an uncle who was dying of lung cancer, purchased some pot and drove it out to New York.
“I secured him some pot and went to visit him in Long Island,” Burns said, mentioning that the statute of limitations had run out. “It had such a curative effect on him that he ended up gaining 15 pounds before he died.”
“But most importantly, it made his transition much more comfortable,” he said.
For the most part, Burns said, living in a conservative state is a good thing. But not when the issues involve marijuana.
Not only is Wyoming wasting money on incarcerating people, he said, but the state is missing out on the economic benefits of legalization.
“You’ve got places like Colorado which is making millions of dollars in tax benefits because of it,” Burns said. “At some point, I wonder if our deficit hawks in Wyoming are going to realize that.”
If Burns had his way, the state would decriminalize the drug.
“If somebody is caught with pot, I would make the penalty no more than a parking ticket,” he said.
What’s the difference? Burns said by decriminalizing marijuana, it gives the states a political way out.
“You’re giving the states permission to do it without there being any great punishment for it,” he said.