Cheyenne City Council Urges Wyoming Legislature To Decriminalize Marijuana

The Cheyenne City Council passed a resolution this week encouraging other municipalities to put pressure on the Wyoming Legislature to decriminalize marijuana. The Casper City Council addressed the topic on Tuesday, as well.

LW
Leo Wolfson

August 17, 20234 min read

City Councilmembers Richard Johnson (right), and Scott Roybal (left)
City Councilmembers Richard Johnson (right), and Scott Roybal (left) (Photo by Matt Idler, Cowboy State Daily)

CHEYENNE — Although Wyoming’s capital city isn’t ready to approve it yet in its own backyard, the Cheyenne City Council wants the rest of the state to “reconsider” decriminalizing marijuana and reforming the Wyoming Controlled Substance Act. 

The council passed a resolution this week it will present to the Wyoming Association of Municipalities at its next meeting, urging the Wyoming Legislature to start the ball rolling on marijuana decriminalization next summer.

“We’re asking the Legislature to run it with their interim topics and draft more marijuana-friendly legislation,” said City Council President Richard Johnson, who brought the resolution.

With the support of WAM, the push may gain some momentum, he said.

State Rep. Daniel Singh, R-Cheyenne, already offered to support decriminalization during discussions in March and told Cowboy State Daily he would be open to considering the issue at the Legislature.

A Green Picture

Decriminalization of cannabis is different from legalization as it typically only removes all felony charges for possession of marijuana and all associated penalties involving jail and prison time.

The council resolution, which passed 5-2, comes on the heels of a previous consideration the city gave to decriminalizing cannabis in city limits in March. That failed on two consecutive votes.

In this week’s council vote, Johnson, Mark Rinne, Ken Esquibel, Scott Roybal and Bryan Cook voted for it. Council members Michelle Aldrich and Tom Segrave were the "no" votes.

 One of the biggest objections raised in March was a desire to let the Legislature handle the issue first on a statewide level.

Johnson said two council members who had opposed marijuana decriminalization flipped their votes on Monday, holding true to their original objections.

“Per our conversations in March, this was the way the council wanted to see it go,” Johnson said.

But marijuana decriminalization still has a long road to travel before passing into law. Johnson said he wouldn’t anticipate discussions about it in the Legislature until the 2025 general session.

“If we can get it to the Legislature at the end of the (upcoming) budget session and listed as one of the topics of discussion for the interim session for 2024, we can bring it forward with a bill in 2025,” Johnson said.

Now, To The State

On Tuesday, the Casper City Council addressed the Cheyenne resolution. It also discussed the topic of marijuana in January.

“It’s their belief that the state needs to give this more consideration and I would agree,” said City Council member Kyle Gamroth. “I appreciate the Cheyenne City Council passing this resolution, trying to keep this topic pushing forward.”

Gamroth mentioned how a similar resolution brought by the town of Jackson nearly passed through WAM earlier this year, losing by a single vote. He said Casper’s support would hold weight on a statewide level.

There was no further discussion or comments on Gamroth’s proposal.

The People’s Choice

Johnson said getting the Legislature to change laws is an easier route to decriminalization than a ballot referendum.

There have been various attempts to decriminalize and legalize marijuana through the Legislature, but none have come close to passing.

Cannabis advocacy group Wyoming NORML recently engaged in a campaign to have two proposed cannabis ballot measures brought to voters on the 2024 state ballot. Those efforts fell short, but not by a large margin. 

The group is reengaging its efforts and plans to hire professional petitioners to help gather enough signatures to bring two proposed cannabis ballot measures to voters in 2025.

Although it’s one of the most conservative states in the union, there may be more support for marijuana in Wyoming than some might think. 

A 2020 University of Wyoming survey found that 54% of state residents support legalizing marijuana for personal use, up from 37% in the same survey in 2014. The 2020 survey also found that 85% of Wyoming residents support legalization of medical marijuana. 

Other conservative states like Utah and Montana have legalized the substance at various levels. 

In 2022, Colorado received $423 million in tax revenue from legal marijuana sales, but the state was cited by opponents of the resolution on Monday as an example of crime spiking as a result of marijuana legalization. Wyoming is one of four states to have not legalized some form of marijuana use. No state has walked back any form of legalization since enacted.

Leo Wolfson can be reached at Leo@CowboyStateDaily.com.

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Leo Wolfson

Politics and Government Reporter