By Phillip Smith
In a sign of changing times, at least two separate marijuana initiative campaigns are getting underway in Wyoming, one of the reddest of the red states. One initiative would legalize marijuana and hemp, while the other limits itself to medical marijuana.
The first initiative, sponsored by Wyoming NORML ("established 4/20/2013"), would "tax and legalize cannabis, hemp, and ALL related products and businesses in the state of Wyoming, removing all penalties for use by adults over 21 years of age within the state of Wyoming for both medical and recreational consumption." It is aimed at the 2016 ballot.
Wyoming NORML presented its initiative petition to the secretary of state's office Monday. Under the state's initiative rules, the legislature has two weeks to review the application and suggest changes. If lawmakers object, organizers would have 19 days to collect 100 signatures to overrule the legislature and file the petition. Once a petition is approved for general circulation, organizers will need to come up with registered voters' signatures equal to 15% of those who voted in the 2012 general election and 15% of the population in two-thirds of the state's counties. That's about 36,000 registered voters.
The thing could have a chance, said Wyoming NORML head Christine Christian.
"I think there's a greater likelihood than people are projecting," Christian told the Jackson Hole News and Guide. "We're seeing more and more across the country that legislators are legalizing the medical. There are many people here that want medical marijuana. There are many people here that want hemp. There are many people here that want to use it recreationally."
But Weed Wyoming, the folks behind the medical marijuana initiative, aren't so sure the Cowboy State is ready for legal reefer. They announced Sunday that they are moving ahead with medical marijuana alone because they don't think a legalization initiative can win.
"Although there is already an initiative in the pipeline for the 2016 ballot addressing marijuana law reform, its 'whole ball of wax' approach has no chance, as it is our experience that there is a lot of support for reform in our state, but the vast majority of that support is for medical reform and not recreational use," the group said in a press release. "Given the consequences of failure of such an initiative, we feel it necessary to offer the people of our state an initiative that we believe brings the much-needed relief that the sick and disabled of our state badly need and actually has a good chance of succeeding."
More than 2,000 people a year are arrested on marijuana charges in Wyoming, a state with only slightly more than half a million residents. About nine out of 10 of those arrests are for simple possession.