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Gillette Cops Bust Speeding Californian With 300 Pounds Of Weed Worth $1.2 Million

in News/Crime
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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

A California man is in custody at the Campbell County jail after almost 300 pounds of marijuana was found last week in the car he was driving.

Leng See Chang, 33, of Sacramento, was arrested Thursday morning on Wyoming Highway 50 outside of Gillette and faces numerous charges, including possession with intent to deliver. He remained in custody as of Monday, Campbell County Sheriff’s Capt. Eric Seeman told Cowboy State Daily.

“The stop was pretty quick,” Seeman said. “He was going around nine miles (per hour) above the speed limit and the officer just noticed there was something in the back of the vehicle.”

Cheng was driving a 2008 Toyota RAV4 and concealed the drugs in the backseat and the rear portion of the vehicle, according to arrest reports. The drugs were concealed under a sleeping bag, but Seeman said the officer could see Cheng was hauling something that was loading the car down.

Cheng quickly admitted to having the drugs in the vehicle, Seeman said. The street value of the drugs is estimated to be around $1.2 million.

“I’d personally rather have the $1.2 million than the drugs, but that’s just me,” he said.

Cheng did say where he was heading, but Seeman said that information was not being released. He was not sure where Cheng had been driving from when he was arrested outside of Gillette.

The captain added that this was one of the larger drug busts the sheriff’s department has seen in recent years. While the department might see people get arrested for marijuana possession, they usually do not have hundreds of pounds with them.

“At the Campbell County Sheriff’s Office, we have a zero tolerance policy, so it doesn’t matter what the amount of drugs could be in the car, if you’re caught with any controlled substance, you will be arrested and go to jail,” Seeman said.

Louey Williams, a special agent with the Wyoming Division of Criminal Investigation special agent, told Cowboy State Daily that drug trafficking on Wyoming’s highwways is nothing new.

However, the increase of K-9 partners used by local law enforcement agencies has been a major help in cutting down on drugs being hauled through Wyoming, he said.

“If you have guys that are working the interstate and have a K-9, that increases the chance of them catching the load,” he said.

Williams knew there had been larger busts of drugs and marijuana during Wyoming traffic stops in recent years, but could not recall the numbers or when.

“This is a pretty large load, but there have definitely been bigger,” Williams said.

In February, the Pine Bluffs police department conducted a traffic stop for someone speeding and discovered nearly 350 pounds of marijuana inside of the vehicle, a historic bust for the department.

In April 2021, a traffic stop near Evanston led to the discovery of 300 pounds of marijuana.

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Pot Law Backers Try To Put Citizen-Backed Initiative On Ballot For First Time Since 1996

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By Jim Angell, Cowboy State Daily

Proponents of two initiatives aimed at changing Wyoming’s marijuana laws have cleared their first hurdle in placing a citizen-backed initiative on Wyoming’s ballot for the first time since 1996.

The national Libertarian Party and state Rep. Marshall Burt, L-Green River, have won conditional certification from the Wyoming Secretary of State’s office to collect the signatures needed to place their proposed new state laws on the 2022 general election ballot.

The backers must first collect 100 signatures of “sponsors” for their initiatives, which would, if approved by voters, reduce the penalties for marijuana use and possession and allow its use for medical purposes.

If the 100 signatures from registered Wyoming voters are submitted to the Wyoming secretary of state’s office within the next 30 days and confirmed, the groups can begin collecting the more than 41,000 signatures needed to put the measures on the ballot.

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.

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.

The required numbers range from 199 signatures in Niobrara County to 6,786 in Laramie County

.If the signatures are collected and confirmed, it will mark the first time in more than 25 years a citizen-launched initiative has won a spot on the ballot.

The last such initiative in 1996 proposed a constitutional amendment that would have required candidates for the state’s Legislature to post a statement next to their names on ballots indicating whether they supported term limits.

The measure failed to win the necessary number of votes and was defeated.

If the measures are placed on the ballot, each will have to receive a majority of all votes cast in the election — not just a majority of votes cast for the measures themselves. In other words, not voting on a measure would be the same as a “no” vote.

This is not the first time a measure has been proposed in Wyoming to legalize the medical use of marijuana. The “Peggy A. Kelly Wyoming Cannabis Act” was proposed to appear on the 2018 ballot, however, backers failed to collect the signatures needed by a Feb. 14, 2017 deadline.

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WYDOT Cautions Not to Celebrate April 20 By Smoking Weed & Driving

in News/Crime
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By Wendy Corr, Cowboy State Daily

Weed mythology has it that in the 1970s, a group of California teens would use “420” as a code word to signal after-school smoke sessions.

And on this 4/20 day, the Wyoming Highway Patrol is cautioning motorists that people who choose to use both alcohol and cannabis are among the most dangerous drivers on the road.

Government data shows that alcohol and marijuana are the most widely used drugs in the United States – 139.8 million people aged 12 or older reported drinking alcohol in the past month, and 43.5 million reported using marijuana in the past year.

And even when they use the substances separately, the Wyoming Department of Transportation reports that people who drink and get high are more likely to speed, text, intentionally run red lights, and drive aggressively than those who don’t.

The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety released a report just in time for 4/20 day that highlights the dangers of drinking and toking. The Foundation’s annual Traffic Safety Culture Index found that drivers who use both marijuana and alcohol were significantly more prone to driving under the influence of alcohol versus those who only drink alcohol but do not use marijuana. 

Compared to alcohol-only users, AAA reports that drivers who admitted to using both were more likely to report such behaviors as:

Speeding on residential streets (55%) vs. alcohol-only (35%)

Aggressive driving (52%) vs. alcohol-only (28%)

Intentional red-light running (48%) vs alcohol-only (32%)

Texting while driving (40%) vs. alcohol-only (21%)

Cody Beers, public information specialist for WYDOT, pointed out to Cowboy State Daily that impairment of any kind increases risk factors on the road.

“When people are out driving impaired, they’re not wearing their seatbelts, or they’re driving too fast – and when you combine those factors together, you’re not buckled and you’re driving too fast and you’re drinking and driving, you’re gonna have a crash.”

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Legislator Says Wyoming Could Save Millions With Weed Legalization

in News/Legislature
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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

A state representative from Laramie recently crunched the numbers and determined Wyoming would save millions with a recently introduced marijuana legalization bill.

Rep. Karlee Provenza, D-Laramie, asked during a presentation on House Bill 209 (which would legalize medical and recreational marijuana in the state) last week what the savings to the Wyoming Department of Corrections would be if the bill was approved.

“They reported back that approximately 335 people are incarcerated for drug offenses, 2,501 are under supervision, and the total cost is approximately $19,498,525,” Provenza tweeted.

However, DOC Director Daniel Shannon said the department was unable to identify those who were incarcerated or under supervision specifically for marijuana possession.

According to the Legislative Service Office, Wyoming would see $30.7 million in tax revenue increases every fiscal year with the legalization of marijuana.

Provenza, along with a number of other legislators (including Reps. Eric Barlow, R-Gillette, Cathy Connolly, D-Laramie, and Cyrus Western, R-Big Horn, and Sens. Cale Case, R-Lander and Chris Rothfuss, D-Laramie) is a co-sponsor of the bill, which was introduced by Rep. Jared Olsen, R-Cheyenne.

“Legalizing marijuana will save millions and provide millions more in tax revenues,” Provenza added on Twitter. “This is far better for Wyoming than continuing to criminalize personal choices and freedom. The cost in money and human lives is tragic and ineffective.”

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In Brief: Hemp bill clears Senate

in News/Agriculture
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By Cowboy State Daily

A bill legalizing the production and possession of hemp and hemp products and setting up a regulatory process for the crop was approved by the Senate on Monday.

HB 171, creating a licensing process to be followed by Wyoming farmers who wish to raise hemp, was approved on a vote of 26-2.

Congress last year approved a bill legalizing the production of hemp. Hemp, while related to marijuana, lacks the active compounds that produce marijuana’s “high.”

Wyoming in 2017 had approved legislation allowing the state to develop hemp as a viable crop. HB 171 would require the state Department of Agriculture to license hemp growers and to test crops to make sure they do not contain the compounds found in marijuana.

The bill provides $440,000 to finance the Agriculture Department’s work on regulations and testing.

Marijuana reform bill killed in House committee

in News
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By Cowboy State Daily

A bill that would have reduced the penalty for many marijuana infractions died in the House Judiciary Committee on Thursday.

Currently, state law mandates anyone found with three ounces or more of marijuana be charged with a felony. HB 234 would have reduced that to a misdemeanor, along with the penalty for being caught more than three times with any amount of marijuana.

A misdemeanor is punishable by a jail sentence, while a felony can carry a sentence in prison.

Rep. Tyler Lindholm, R-Sundance, the bill’s sponsor, said the bill was intended to reduce the penalties faced by youth who may simply have made a mistake.

“Because we can handle crime and punishment with a misdemeanor versus sending someone to (the Wyoming State Prison in) Rawlins for marijuana,” he said.

But opponents said a number of steps must be taken before someone is convicted of a felony-level crime for possession of marijuana.

“To end up with a conviction on marijuana, there’s lots of other things that happen, lots of other circumstances that happen,” said Byron Oedekoven, director of the Wyoming Association of Sheriffs and Chiefs of Police. “It’s not just a simple mistake.”

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