A pair of Wyoming marijuana reform initiatives have cleared an initial hurdle on the path to qualifying for the state’s 2022 ballot.
Activists are seeking to put separate measures to legalize medical cannabis and decriminalize adult-use marijuana before voters next year—and the secretary of state’s office on Friday approved the latest version of their proposed ballot language, freeing up advocates to gather a requisite 100 signatures per initiative in order to proceed to the next step.
The Libertarian Party and state Rep. Marshall Burt (L) partnered with advocates to unveil the initial drafts of the proposals in June. The campaign, which is also being supported by Wyoming NORML, came after state lawmakers advanced but failed to pass a bill to legalize marijuana this session.
The final text of the medical cannabis proposal states that patients could purchase and possess up to four ounces of flower and 20 grams of “medical marijuana-derived products” in a 30-day period.
People with any of more than a dozen qualifying conditions—including cancer, glaucoma, HIV, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease and dementia—would also be able to cultivate up to eight mature plants for personal use.
Under the medical cannabis initiative, the Department of Revenue’s Liquor Division would be responsible for licensing marijuana businesses. The division would be required to promulgate rules by July 1, 2023.
The division “shall regulate the acquisition, growth, cultivation, extraction, production, processing, manufacturing, testing, distribution, retail sales, licensing, transportation and taxation of medical marijuana and medical marijuana-derived products and the operation of medical marijuana establishments in a manor that will not prove excessively burdensome for Patients to access medical marijuana or medical marijuana-derived products nor burdensome for licensed healthcare providers to certify their Patients,” the text of the measure states.
Meanwhile, activists’ separate decriminalization measure would impose small fines on people possessing up to four ounces of marijuana, without the threat of jail time. A first and second offense would be considered a misdemeanor punishable by a $50 fine, while a third and any subsequent offense would penalized by a $75 fine. Cultivating marijuana would be punishable by a maximum $200 fine.
People caught in possession of marijuana in excess of the four ounce limit would face a maximum $500 fine. Those who are found to be under the influence of cannabis could be fined $50.
A drafting error in an earlier version of the proposal that would’ve removed the threat of jail time for cultivating opium and peyote was fixed in this latest text.
Activists went back and forth with state officials on finalizing language for the ballot measures, submitting three rounds of drafts before landing on the latest versions. After being approved late last week, the campaign must now gather an initial 100 valid signatures on each initiative within 30 days to proceed to the next step.
Apollo Pazell, chief strategist for the campaign, told Marijuana Moment that advocates plan to turn in 200 signatures for each measure by the end of the week in order to make sure that enough collected petitions end up being valid.
For both the medical cannabis and decriminalization proposals, petitioners will then have until February 14 to collect 41,775 valid signatures from registered voters to make the ballot.
A bill to legalize and regulate cannabis for adult use in Wyoming advanced out of a House committee in March, but it did not move further in the legislature by the end of the session.
A poll released in December found that 54 percent of state residents support allowing “adults in Wyoming to legally possess marijuana for personal use.” Presumably, that would mean that the more moderate proposals stand to pass if they’re certified for the ballot.
Wyoming’s neighbors Montana and South Dakota were among several states that approved marijuana legalization ballot measures in November.
Former U.S. Senator and Rhode Island Gov. Lincoln Chafee, who now resides in Wyoming and identifies as a Libertarian, is not yet directly involved in this latest marijuana ballot push, despite having testified in support of the legalization bill that advanced in the state this year.
Laryssa Gaughen, communications director for the Libertarian National Committee, previously told Marijuana Moment that he is “generally supportive of our effort,” however.
Meanwhile, the House legalization legislation, which was backed by the Republican chair of the Judiciary Committee, would have allowed adults 21 and older to purchase and possess up to three ounces of marijuana and cultivate up to 12 mature plants for personal use.
The measure was also cosponsored by the House speaker and other top GOP lawmakers.
Looking ahead to 2022, Wyoming isn’t the only state where voters could soon see cannabis reform on the ballot.
Idaho officials have recently cleared activists to begin collecting signatures for a revised initiative to legalize possession of marijuana that they hope to place before voters on the 2022 ballot. Advocates in the state are also working to qualify a separate measure to legalize medical cannabis for ballot access.
In South Dakota, activists last month filed four separate cannabis ballot measures for 2022.
North Dakota activists are formulating plans for a marijuana legalization measure after lawmakers failed to enact the reform this session.
A group of Missouri marijuana activists recently filed several separate initiatives to put marijuana reform on the state’s 2022 ballot, a move that comes as other advocacy groups are preparing additional efforts to collect signatures for cannabis ballot petitions of their own. Meanwhile, still other activists are focusing on getting the legislature to pass a resolution to place the question of legalization before voters next year.
In Maryland, the House speaker has pledged to pass legislation to place a marijuana legalization referendum on the 2022 ballot.
Nebraska marijuana activists have announced plans for a “mass scale” campaign to put medical cannabis legalization on the state’s 2022 ballot.
Ohio activists awaiting official clearance to collect signatures for a statewide ballot measure that would effectively force the legislature to consider cannabis reform. Meanwhile, other groups also recently qualified several measure to decriminalize cannabis to appear on local 2021 ballots.
A newly established Texas progressive group unveiled a campaign last month to put an initiative to decriminalize marijuana possession and ban no-knock warrants on this November’s ballot in Austin.
Advocates are also working to put marijuana initiatives on local ballots in South Carolina and West Virginia.
Meanwhile, the Florida Supreme Court has blocked two cannabis legalization initiatives for which activists had already collected thousands of signatures.
Read the text of the Wyoming marijuana initiatives below:
Photo courtesy of Mike Latimer.