Weed whacking Colorado style
It’s only a matter of time before Wyoming gets weed greedy watching her neighbor to the south tap the lucrative marijuana market. How long can lawmakers hold out before they are pressured into luring back Cheyenne-Laramie border crossers hungry for a doobie and a Lotto ticket? They already caved on the latter.
Rep. Sue Wallis is expected to sponsor a bill to legalize medical marijuana. The staunch Republican from Recluse is the last lawmaker one may have anticipated the bill coming from, but Wallis cites her firsthand experience with the power of pot as a painkiller. While Wallis’ bill would toe the water, hemp and cannabis advocacy groups like NORML say they would rather see Wyoming swing for the fences.
“It’s not enough,” Wyoming NORML executive director Chris Christian said. “On February 10, Wyoming NORML will launch its initiative to fully legalize all cannabis products including hemp by adults over the age of 21. [Sales will be taxed] and [that revenue added] to the General Fund, allowing just the reductions in spending that our legislators think is so important.”
Rep. James Byrd, D-Laramie, has sponsored a bill that would decriminalize the possession of less than an ounce of marijuana, making the offense a civil penalty carrying the fine of $100. Possession of a joint would set a toker back fifty bucks.
If legislators don’t opt to “go green” next month, NORML reps say they will easily gather the required 70,000 signatures to put pot legalization on the 2016 ballot for Wyoming voters to decide.
Petroff believes that day will come, but not yet.
“I am ultimately in favor of full-on decriminalization of pot. I’m just not in any hurry to do it,” Petroff said. “It’s nice to have a couple of states doing a test run for us, shaking out some of the issues like what kind of unintended consequences there might be to full decriminalization? I’d like to move ahead cautiously. I mean, I just don’t think prohibition has done us any favors. It’s no kind of success story in any way.”
Christensen is less optimistic. “I had the luxury of meeting some of the people who worked on that law in Colorado and one of them was in law enforcement,” he said. “He told me that violent crime shot up around distribution centers when medical marijuana passed. People were preying on those who just got their prescription filled. It didn’t make a lot of press.”
Christensen also said he spoke with one doctor in Colorado Springs who admitted there were also flaws in the rollout of medical marijuana allowance. Christensen said he expected the bill to get some attention because of the buzz but in a budget go ’round requiring a two-thirds majority vote in the house of origin, he didn’t think it would pass in any form.
“I think we need to wait and see how things work in Colorado,” Christensen said.