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Wyoming Decriminalization, Medical Cannabis Initiatives Enter Signature-Gathering Process

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Activists in Wyoming around continuing the push to bring legal cannabis, medicinal and otherwise, to the state following a number of challenges over the years. Now, two Wyoming cannabis reform initiatives have progressed, now paving the way for each to qualify for the state’s 2022 ballot.

Advocates, made up of the state and national Libertarian Party alongside Wyoming community leaders, submitted two ballot initiative proposals to Wyoming’s Secretary of State in Cheyenne back in June: one will create a medical cannabis program with dispensaries and an allowance for people to grow a limited quantity of plants; the other proposal would decriminalize cannabis in Wyoming. The initiatives were introduced after another bill, which would have legalized recreational cannabis, though that bill was not considered on the House floor.

The secretary of state’s office approved the latest version of each proposal, which leaves advocates to gather at least 100 signatures from people to act as co-sponsors and make the certification final, per initiative, to move forward. The only requirement surrounding those first 100 signatures is that they must come from registered Wyoming voters, anywhere in the state.

Apollo Pazell, chief strategist for the campaign, told the Star-Tribune that they are looking to complete the first 100 signatures, along with an extra 100 as a cushion, by Friday, August 6.

The medical cannabis proposal’s final text states patients could purchase and possess up to four ounces of flower and 20 grams of “medical marijuana-derived products” in a 30-day period. For those with qualifying conditions—like multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, cancer, glaucoma, HIV and dementia—patients would additionally be allowed to cultivate up to eight plants for their own use.

The medical cannabis initiative also notes that the Department of Revenue’s Liquor Division would be in charge of licensing cannabis businesses and would be required to make their rules known by July 1, 2023.

According to the text of the measure, the division is responsible for regulating the acquisition, growth, cultivation, extraction, production, processing, manufacturing, testing, distribution, retail sales, licensing, transportation and taxation of medical cannabis and medical cannabis-derived products and the operation of medical cannabis establishments, “in a manor that will not prove excessively burdensome for Patients … nor burdensome for licensed healthcare providers to certify their Patients.”

The separate decriminalization bill would impose small fines for possessing up to four ounces of cannabis, with no threat of jail time. The first and second offenses would be considered misdemeanors punishable by a $50 fine, the third and any subsequent offenses punishable by a $75 fine and cultivating cannabis punishable by a maximum fine of $200. Those possessing more than the four ounce limit would face a maximum fine of $500, and those found to be under the influence of cannabis could face a $50 fine.

As it stands with the current progress for both initiatives, the campaign now needs to gather an initial 100 signatures for each within 30 days to proceed to the next step. If each initiative receives the required amount of signatures, petitioners will then have until Feb. 14 to collect 41,775 valid signatures from registered voters in order for each to make it onto the 2022 ballot, which is equal to 15 percent of those who voted in the preceding general election, according to the Wyoming Secretary of State’s Office. The signatures must also come from at least two-thirds of Wyoming’s counties, or 16 of the 23 total.

The aims of the initiatives also show strong support from those in the state. A 2020 survey from the University of Wyoming has support for medical cannabis as high as 85 percent, with 54 percent of those polled showing support for recreational cannabis and 75 percent supporting cannabis decriminalization.

Wyoming remains one of the six states where cannabis use and possession are entirely illegal, and only time will tell if that will shift in the future.

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