A bill sponsored by a Cheyenne Democrat would reduce the sentence for someone caught with up to an ounce of marijuana.

House Bill 49, sponsored by Rep. James Byrd, would alter the state’s possession statutes to make an exemption for marijuana. Someone caught with up to a half ounce of pot would be subject to a civil penalty of $50, the bill states. If they had a half ounce to an ounce, they would be fined $100.

“That’s the same thing as a civil ticket, like speeding through a construction zone,” Byrd said.

Current state law says a person found in possession of marijuana can be convicted of a misdemeanor, facing 12 months behind bars and a fine of $1,000. After a third conviction, a person faces a five-year prison sentence and a $5,000 fine.

“We fill up our jails with young people,” Byrd said. “We set all sorts of traps for young people. Look at the arrest rates for young people. Look at the arrests for marijuana. We ruin lives.”

Byrd said courts and jails are being choked by people who are caught with small amounts of marijuana. Police officers spend four to six hours booking a suspect -- time that should be spent patrolling for crimes that are more of a danger to society, he said.

“I talked to a couple law enforcement officials,” he said. “The only thing it does is take their law enforcement people off the street for what they consider a lesser offense. They’re not going to come out and publicly state this and I’m not going to state who in law enforcement I had the discussions with. They look at it as tying up their resources.”

But Byron Oedekoven, executive director of the Wyoming Association of Sheriffs and Chiefs of Police and former Campbell County sheriff, said most of the time, officers write people in possession of pot a ticket and send them on their way, which takes just minutes.

Oedekoven’s organization hasn’t yet looked at the bill, but he thinks members will oppose it.

“Decriminalization is usually the first step on the path to legalization,” he said.

The association opposes legalization, he said.

“Most communities take marijuana very seriously,” he said. “Most people (who obtain pot) participated in a felony: They brought drugs in from Mexico.”

Byrd believes more Wyomingites will be arrested for marijuana possession because it’s now legal in Colorado. He envisions scenarios in which young Wyoming people party in Colorado, and a month later, one is arrested because a marijuana cigarette that belonged to a friend was put out in his or her car ashtray.

Byrd doesn’t believe his bill would encourage Wyomingites to travel to Colorado for pot, because they’re already traveling there, he said.

Byrd's is not the only legislation addressing marijuana.

Rep. Sue Wallis, R-Recluse, said she intends to sponsor a bill that would allow marijuana for medicinal use. Additionally, there is a petition underway to legalize medical and recreational marijuana through an initiative on the 2016 ballot.

The Wyoming Legislature's 2014 session begins Feb. 10.

Byrd is sponsoring other bills, too.

Minimum wage

HB45, which is cosponsored by Sen. Floyd Esquibel, D-Laramie, would increase the state’s minimum wage to $9 an hour.

The state’s minimum wage currently is $5.15 an hour but few, if any, employers pay that. If a company engages in interstate commerce, it must pay the federal rate of $7.20 an hour.

Byrd said $9 an hour is still not a living wage in Wyoming. Workers would not be able to feed themselves and pay rent and utilities in Wyoming on $9 an hour. But an increase to $9 is better than nothing. It will get conservative lawmakers thinking, Byrd said.

“The reality is the $9 figure is also gauging the temperature of the political waters,” he said. “If I want to raise the minimum wage, where can I go and have people give me consideration? And $9 is the threshold. If I go much higher, the ‘no’ votes will stack up.”

The bill would increase the wages of tipped employees from $2.13 an hour to $5 an hour. Byrd said the Wyoming Restaurant and Lodging Association has said members will oppose the bill. The association did not return a message from the Star-Tribune.

Collection of unpaid wages

HB57 would repeal a law passed by the Legislature last year that would allow employers to not have to pay vacation time if an employee quits or gets fired -- if companies have such a policy and their employees sign a contract stating they understand it.

Last year’s bill was unfair to workers, Byrd said, and his bill tips the balance back, making the relationship between employees and employers more fair.

Rep. Tim Stubson, R-Casper, sponsored last year’s bill. Byrd’s bill could interfere with many companies’ policies that were adopted according to the new law. That would hurt workers, he said.

Parents of the habitually truant

HB58 would strike from current law a provision that allows police officers to arrest parents of children who are habitually truant.

“I think as a society, we should have evolved beyond throwing the parents in jail,” Byrd said. “That does no good in getting the kid to school.”

Byrd had his own habitually truant son. He recalled driving his son to the front door of the school. His son would walk through door and march out of the back door of the school and play hooky, he said.

Byrd threatened to physically escort his son around school, one time even exiting his car to walk his son to his first-period class. Byrd’s son shrieked at the embarrassment of everyone seeing his dad by his side, and reformed his truant ways, Byrd said.

Byrd said many parents have working schedules that prohibit them from spending their days inside Wyoming high schools, making sure their kids get to class.

“If he would have called me out on that and challenged me on that, I would have come through,” Byrd said of his son. “But there are not a lot of parents who can do that.”

That doesn’t let parents off the hook for unruly children, Byrd said.

The Wyoming Department of Family Services has plenty of authority to get involved when a child runs wild, he said.

Reach state reporter Laura Hancock at 307-266-0581 or at laura.hancock@trib.com. Follow her on Twitter: @laurahancock.

(48) comments


Mr. Byrd,

"We" ruin lives by prosecuting people for marijuana? Why do politicians seem to have a knack for not only having the inability to take responsibility for their own actions, but also tend to blame the actions of others on people who have nothing to do with them? I wonder if Mr. Byrd knows that most people are not arrested for marijuana possession but for other crimes they commit to gain possession of marijuana. I personally don't see how we get ahead as a society if we make it easier to gain access to a substance that impairs people's judgement. Why do we insist on continually moving back the line of what's acceptable?


"We" don't ruin the lives of those who insist upon breaking the law, they do. Most people who end up in jail for marijuana either have a quantity that would indicate they are selling it or because of the crimes they commit in order to obtain it and notsimply for possession of the drug itself. I personally don't know how we get ahead as a society by making it easier to obtain a substance that impairs people's judgement.I do wonder though why do we insist upon constantly moving back the line of what is acceptable?


Absolutely correct, Ronbo. Obviously, we're at war with the drug-induced, comatose liberal left-wing in this country. These parasites will continue to push their agenda forward. Your coherent thoughts are confusing to them, I'm sure. Rational people need to push back hard on these lunatics.

Cowboy Joe

This is a logical very reasonable first step in equalizing the laws between alcohol, tobacco and weed. Decriminalization is a conservative move as the wall of the prohibition of cannabis collapses state by state. This would allow Wyoming to move slowly with the rest of the country neither too far in the lead or the last one fighting a failed, irrational social policy.


Get off the wacky-tobacky, Joey. You make no sense. Grow up and understand that legally adding more judgement-impairing substances to the shopping list of America's young people (and other assorted miscreants) does NOT move this country in the right direction. Pull up your pants and get a real job. Living in a psychedelic world impresses no one, my boy.


Whose business is it of yours to tell me what I can do behind someones closed door? Seriously, you talk of the country moving in the right direction, sir the country has been moving in the wrong direction for many years, having nothing to do with pot. Also enough of the for the kids safety cliche. Kids have been raiding parents liquor cabinets since liquor was invented, same today with Rx meds and even cough syrup. Id venture to guess at some point even you "impaired" yourself illegally with grandpas moonshine stash...So the best suggestion for the kids safety is just decent parenting.

What happens behind closed doors of some dude you've never met or ever will, as long as its not hurting others, has NOTHING to do with you. So please stop telling everyone what to do, and just because people dont agree with your views doesn't make them a hippy children.


Mr. Byrd seems to be bent on making it easier for folks to digest their own bad decisions. Something wrong with that picture! If there is little or no negative consequence for a dumb mistake, how do we realistically think learning minds will figure out how to make better decisions. Those with a liberal bent seem to think that society is just looking for ways to make life easier for those willing to put forth only marginal efforts. Golly sakes, I hope they are wrong, and that good sense will show up one of these first days.
Jim, I used to give you credit for having some common sense. No more!


Liberals/socialists move their wacky agendas through incrementalism. Do just enough to get your foot in the door and then slowly open it wider as time goes on. Mr. Byrd-Brain has obviously been co-opted by NORML or some other left-wing group of cowards hiding in the shadows. These people are pathetic, Just check out the pitiful responses above by supporters of this nonsense.


It would still be against the law... However you would get a ticket for breaking the law vs a possible jail sentence. Makes sense to me considering a border state where it's legal...


our country has become the number one im prisoner of its own people because of stupid laws


prohibition didn't work the war on drugs certainly hasn't worked when are we going to realize we can't afford to continue to lock up our citizens for such foolishness


Wonder how many of you saying this is a step back "because it makes it easier to buy more substances that impair you"
Drink? Take painkillers when prescribed? take prescription cough medicine when prescribed? allergy medication? ALL IMPAIR YOU


And each of the bottom listed have the greater chance of HURTING YOU then marijuana. Sheesh.


Hmm. Limited powers to government, individual liberty, personal responsibility... All conservative values. Seems to me that those who claim that the legalization or decriminalization of ANYTHING are part of some sort of a "liberal" agenda are a little confused on what the real meanings of liberal and conservative are. As a conservative, I view cannabis prohibition as a classic case of big government run rampant.

Kool Kat

Attn riverfish, It is the people of Wyoming not Federal Government that speaks for Wyoming. It is the Wyoming voter and tax payer that will decide, not the Colorado manipulation that wants to tie the hands of Wyoming law enforcement that will make that call.

Amendment X
The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the states respectively, or to the people.

If you're a pot smoker and find Wyoming a miserable place to smoke pot, there are also cigarette smokers that feel that way. But unlike you're choice of smoke, cigarettes do not contain THC but do help harm the lungs.
As I'm sure you're the socialist that has "switch" voted in a Republican primary to support a weak Republican candidate. Get what I mean? If you're writings don't reflect conservatism, you can claim conservatism all you want but, your words do not match what you claim.

Meantime, I vote "no" to extending Colorado's pot laws.


pokes-another so-called conservative who opposes personal choice and freedom. speaking of incrementalism, conservatives are experts at that, witness their incremental attempts to restrict abortion and reproductive choice.
pokes, the only ones making fools of themselves in this debate are you and the rest of the reefer madness crowd who insist on living in the 1930's
why is it that anyone with "wyo" or "pokes" in their screen write the dumbest comments?

Comment deleted.
Kool Kat

I sensed thumbs in the ears, with fingers waving and a tongue sticking out on that reply. I guess I once knew that mentality,


Yeah KK, you really have a handle on it. The federal government really wants cannabis legalized, thats why it's still a scheduled substance under federal law. And I am totally a socialist because I believe the goverment should not have the authority to regulate the buying and selling of any goods on the free market. And black is white, you neocon RINO.

Kool Kat

Attn riverfish, glad i got your juices flowing.
If CDC sided with you, I rethink my stance but, this pot RINO thinker, thinks not.,So I choose the conservative side of pot's ill effects, so that pro-pot people as yourself can mascaraed as conservatives. :)


Hm. I think maybe a political science course at a community college might help you understand the words you throw around a little better, KK.

Kool Kat

Attn river, the very same education you received publicly, is the same education I had.
Actually political science at my University talk me my thoughts I live with today.

Kool Kat

Attn river, you're trying too hard. Have a nice day ... just don't get caught smoking pot in Wyoming. Unlike Colorado, in Wyoming, you will go to jail unless, its a cigarette you smoke. Then, just a fine is all you'll face.


KK, actually you're the one who seems to be trying to hard. Aside from that you are utterly ignorant about the law in Wyoming. Possession of marijuana up to 3 ounces is a misdemeanor so in spite of your fascist desire to control other people, its highly doubtful that anyone would go to jail for smoking marijuana without a long list of other convictions.
Since when is there a fine for smoking cigarettes?

Kool Kat

Attn what, you have said you are indian, therefore I can understand your stance for the reservation. But I know you'll be arrested in Riverton for the very same thing. Then calling me ignorant for my disapproval in legalizing pot. Talk about the tolerance you claim others do not have towards you, you need to look in the mirror.


attn KK, I never said I was Indian. Even if I was it wouldn't make you any less ignorant. Please take your meds, wipe the drool off your keyboard and try reading my post again because you obviously missed something the first time.
Otherwise I'm going to have to report you for PUI, posting under the influence.

Kool Kat

Attn what, on another post, you made an insinuation of your heritage, that's the reason for my comment. Are you - or - are you not native?
No meds here ... just a little honesty and sincerity on your part would help. As you keep getting my attention, like a child you seek to converse with me so, I give you the benefit of the doubt. Even as you speak pejoratively at me.


I don't smoke anything, KK, I understand the negative consequences to my health and made an informed decision, as every American ought to be able to do, whether or not they draw the same conclusions as me.

Kool Kat

Ok riverfish, good to hear that.


Whatever, I think you hit the nail right on the head. KK can claim to be a conservative all he likes, but it is clear that his true ideology is fascism.

Kool Kat

Attn riverfish, the pro-drug advocate
noun \ˈfa-ˌshi-zəm also ˈfa-ˌsi-\
: a way of organizing a society in which a government ruled by a dictator controls the lives of the people and in which people are not allowed to disagree with the government
: very harsh control or authority

Wyoming people and "not government" will decide, that means myself and thousands of other Wyomingites will decide. You and what, seem to have a fascist mentality of forcing through manipulation your way or the highway on the majority.
noun \ˈmärk-ˌsi-zəm\
: the political, economic, and social theories of Karl Marx including the belief that the struggle between social classes is a major force in history and that there should eventually be a society in which there are no classes

Sounds like the socialist you claim not to be - flirting with Marxism.


Your comments on the last article prove you to be entirely wrong. You cannot substantiate your information nor provide proven facts. You are just as bad as the government propaganda wagon.

Nothing you can say could be taken seriously by anyone who has read your small minded opinions.

Kool Kat

Attn what tha, got it!
As ling as I don't think as you think - there can be no "common ground" as another poster asked. Nor can there be "civil discourse" as another poster mentioned as well on another thread.
The reason you disclose is the main reason why pot and pot smokers need to remain "snuffed out" of Wyoming, in a legal sense. As your comment portrays someone telling me that, if we can't get "stoned out of our minds" then, we're not willing to listen to reason in living reasonably.
Ok, yes - I got it!


Lol. Because the government of the state of Wyoming isn't a government and dictating what people can and can't put in their bodies isn't harsh control.


Tickets? Fines? In what universe is this considered "decriminalization"???


It is decriminalization because you will not go jail for it, unless u are operating a motorized vehicle. You don't go to jail for parking or speeding tickets or no insurance.


Did anyone else notice that the article right below this on on the front page is "Marijuana-related rage, Smirnoff Ice lead to Casper man's arrest." This does not look good for Rep. James Byrd bill. LOL


Are you dense? The article was following with an alcohol related issue. The young man 'flipped out' and drank alcohol which caused the situation to escalate? Pretty sure if they gave the kid a joint, he woulda sat down and passed out on the couch. Heh.


Oedekoven and his "association" can also be counted upon to oppose every attempt in the WY legislature to loosen the state's gun laws. To a cop, I guess laws are how they make their living - the more the better.


Since when do law-enforcers become law makers? When does mr Oedekoven and his 'board' have any say in what the people want? If the people vote for it, LET THEM HAVE IT.

Another, with another stellar quote from Mr Oedekoven.

“Most communities take marijuana very seriously,” he said. “Most people (who obtain pot) participated in a felony: They brought drugs in from Mexico.”

Doesn't he realize that not a single 'pot head' wants that trash from mexico? Can't your short sighted mind see that all of the 'good stuff' comes from the US? Common now.


I'll say this each and every time I see comments with people spouting off about the "pot heads" and how marijuana makes a person lazy or a drain on society.

I smoked daily while in college. I also worked evenings and weekends to pay the bills. I graduated on the dean's list and finished with my choice of employment in MT or WY. While working full-time at my job I went back to college and completed my master's degree. All while smoking every day.

What those who rail against marijuana don't understand is that for many regular users it is the equivalent of our 'beer after work'. I don't care to drink alcohol but I love to relax with a joint and enjoy my evenings.

Are there people out there who abuse MJ? Absolutely. These are the same people that would abuse alcohol or prescription drugs or whatever other substance they can get to alter their reality. It really comes down to folks with addictive personalities are going to find something to be addicted to and those who don't have addictive personalities are not going to abuse their substance of choice. Drug use/abuse needs to be viewed as a human condition and a law enforcement issue.


Well put.

dd ric

KK,I said I was an Indian. So in the meantime I practice holding my breath and then exhale slowly. And I have a piece of land here in Casper just waiting for a greenhouse. Look at alcohol and all of it's destruction. I have more friends from my youth dead from drink than all the combines down-sides of Life. Wyoming voters need to wake up. The Legislature needs to grow a spine. Look at the foot-dragging just to get a lottery going. . ddric

Kool Kat

Attn dd ric, that's what I thought regarding Indian.
In terms of pot, you do know that in Casper, pot is illegal? And yes I know, Wyoming has a bad problem with alcohol abuse. There are some alcoholics I've talked to that tell me that they love being miserable in Wyoming as they drink.
I think the greatest reason for that was, cause other states make them leave and Wyoming loves them enough to remain and drink. Personally, I'm no so sure the Lottery will be a great help in Wyoming without the volume of population it takes for that success.

But I do know that pot would definitely be out of the question.


States make people leave because they drink? I dunno where that logic comes from. But thats the dumbest notion I have ever heard. How about you tell the truth. They get ran out of states because they drink and drive, which we seem to have a problem getting a hold of. They also make them leave because they drink and beat their wives/partners, or sheesh, even kill people (Need I site the three recent accidents / murders in casper related to alcohol).

You don't hear about anyone getting high and shooting people.


Although we need to get to full legalization, this is a good first step. While we debate the specifics of what legalization will entail, we can start saving money by not putting people through the criminal justice system because they were in possession of dead plant material. Unfortunately this still provides a monetary incentive for the government and its enforcers to interfere in citizens lives, but a step in the right direction non the less.

Comment deleted.
Comment deleted.

KK, I have a different idea for clearing the air. Why don't you explain what difference it makes if I am Indian, African-American, White or Asian? Does it make pointing out the inanity of your comments any less valid?
So here's a presumptuous question for you; Are you mentally ill or do you just have an extremely low IQ?


Finally, a bill that enhances liberty. Anyone who calls themselves a Republican or Libertarian better support this one. What we need in many aspects of our society is less government interference, not more.

If an adult wants to use a naturally occurring plant like this, which is less toxic than alcohol, let them do it, so long as they utilize it within the confines of the law -- no smoking in public, driving while intoxicated, etc. The laws on the books already prohibit such use anyway.


Sure lighten up on MJ. Next comes medical use and then full legalization. Hey this is Wyoming and not Colorado, Washington or California.

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