Laramie Democrat Introduces Bill To Decriminalize Marijuana

State Rep. Karlee Provenza, D-Laramie, has introduced a bill to decriminalize marijuana in Wyoming. The likelihood of it passing is about zero for political reasons and the much higher threshold of getting a non-budget bill through a budget session.

Leo Wolfson

February 15, 20244 min read

Rep. Karlee Provenza, D-Laramie
Rep. Karlee Provenza, D-Laramie (Matt Idler for Cowboy State Daily)

Even though she admits it may be unlikely to happen, state Rep. Karlee Provenza, D-Laramie, wants to make a statement by asking the Legislature to decriminalize marijuana use in Wyoming.

Wyoming Legislators have historically rejected efforts to legalize marijuana in any form, and Provenza won’t be going after that goal in the 2024 legislative session. She’s reaching for lower-hanging fruit by proposing legislation that would decriminalize marijuana in Wyoming.

“My personal view is that we should have full legalization, but trying to meet people where they’re at right now,” she said of a bill she’s proposed for the current budget session.

Provenza said the primary inspiration for her bill is to take pressure off Wyoming’s court systems from what she sees as superfluous and unnecessary charges related to the use and possession of marijuana.

She also believes the government should not regulate the personal use of marijuana.

“Who am I, as the government, to tell a veteran with PTSD they can’t use cannabis in their own home medicinally if it’s not impacting anybody else?” she questioned. “I think that is a grave misstep of government that we continue to do that.”

Along with the political hurdles, Provenza’s bill has other obstacles being proposed during a budget session, which is shorter and requires a higher two-thirds threshold vote to pass.

Sen. Eric Barlow, R-Gillette, said Provenza's bill has no chance because of the short length of the budget session.

"Just the bar of two-thirds in time," Barlow said. "This is a big issue. It's a big issue that should actually go through an interim (session), be vetted out and understand the consequences."

Barlow brought his own bill to legalize medical marijuana in 2019 and said he would consider supporting Provenza's bill in the unlikely scenario it reaches the Senate.

What It Would Do

House Bill 204 would eliminate criminal penalties associated with the possession of up to 3 ounces of cannabis. It would not prevent people from receiving a civil penalty of up to $100 for the possession of marijuana under the 3-ounce limit. It would not exempt people from prosecution under federal law.

“If it’s not criminalized, there’s really no reason to load you up in a squad car and take you away,” Provenza said. “The hope is we can free up those resources as well.”

Those found possessing an amount of marijuana greater than 3 ounces, the current baseline for a felony charge in Wyoming, could still be convicted of a felony under the legislation. But the bill would remove the current law in Wyoming that states those found in possession of marijuana three or more times are to be charged with a felony.

HB 204 would include edible and liquid marijuana products.

Previous efforts to support the use of marijuana by the Wyoming Legislature haven’t had much success. The farthest a bill has traveled in recent years was in 2021 when the House Judiciary Committee passed a bill to legalize recreational marijuana in Wyoming. The bill advanced no farther than that.

“That would have raised money (for the state),” Provenza said.

What Do The People Want?

From 2021-2022, an effort also was made to bring a ballot question to voters to legalize medical marijuana and another to decriminalize possession of small amounts of cannabis. This effort failed to get enough signatures to qualify for the ballot.

Even so, “I feel very this has broad support across the state of Wyoming,” Provenza said. “I don’t know what my colleagues think.”

According to a 2020 survey by the Wyoming Survey and Analysis Center, 54% of the 614 people questioned support allowing adults in the state to legally possess marijuana for personal use, and 75% said they support decriminalization.

“I think this bill is an honest representation of what the people of Wyoming want, and it would be dishonest for representatives to not try and represent that believe system,” Provenza said.

What Do Other Legislators Think?

With a two-thirds majority required to introduce any nonbudget legislation during the 2024 session, Decriminalization Of Cannabis will likely face an uphill battle from the get-go.

Two Republicans have co-sponsored the legislation in Sen. Cale Case, R-Lander, and Rep. Jared Olsen, R-Cheyenne, and at least one other Republican says he’ll support considering the bill.

Rep. Daniel Singh, R-Cheyenne, said decriminalizing marijuana in Wyoming is at least worth a conversation.

“I think the people deserve to have the conversation in the Committee of the Whole,” he said.

Singh also offered support last spring for a proposed cannabis decriminalization ordinance in the city of Cheyenne that failed.

Leo Wolfson can be reached at

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Leo Wolfson

Politics and Government Reporter