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Wyoming Pot Initiative Backers Cleared To Collect Signatures

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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.

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UW Survey: Majority of Wyomingites Support Marijuana Legalization

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

The majority of surveyed Wyomingites would support legalizing recreational marijuana, according to a study conducted by the University of Wyoming.

According to a new 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.

This marks a steady increase in support observed over six years. In 2014, only 37% supported marijuana legalization. In 2016, 41% supported it. In 2018, 49% supported it.

There is a clear pattern showing that younger Wyomingites support marijuana legalization and that support declines as the ages of those questioned increase.

A majority of 18- to 24-year-olds, 67%, support legalization, as do a majority of those age 25 to 34 (74%), 35- to 44-year-olds (68%) and 55- to 64-year-olds (51%). Support for legalization falls below a majority of those aged 45-55 (45%), 65-74 (40%) and 75-older (30%).

According to Rodney Wambeam, a senior research scientist at WYSAC, the support for recreational marijuana use reflects a decrease in the perceived risk or harm related to the drug.

“Despite the increasing dangers of marijuana use, such as addiction or drugged driving, young people in particular seem to view marijuana as a safe and natural alternative to alcohol or other illicit drugs,” Wambeam said.

A large majority (85%) of those questioned said they support the legalization of marijuana for medical purposes if a doctor prescribes it. This has remained steady from 2018, when 86% reported that they support medical marijuana legalization.

Three-quarters of those questioned believe that people convicted of possessing small amounts of marijuana should not serve time in jail. This has increased from 69% in 2018 and from 66% in 2014.

“As laws regarding the legalization and decriminalization of marijuana change around the U.S., especially in nearby states, it’s not surprising to see attitudes in Wyoming change as well,” Brian Harnisch, senior research scientist at WYSAC, said. “In all bordering states except Idaho, marijuana or medical marijuana has been legalized to some extent or decriminalized.”

The statewide survey was conducted Oct. 8-29, yielding 614 responses from randomly selected Wyoming citizens. The margin of error for the distribution of responses on any individual survey question is plus or minus 4 percentage points.

Men and women from all age groups are represented, and all counties in Wyoming are proportionally represented in the survey sample.

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