NORML submits initiative to legalize marijuana in Wyoming, for 2016 ballot

2014-01-14T08:00:00Z 2014-01-18T00:17:00Z NORML submits initiative to legalize marijuana in Wyoming, for 2016 ballotBy LAURA HANCOCK Star-Tribune staff writer Casper Star-Tribune Online

People with debilitating medical conditions would be allowed to grow 12 pot plants and all Wyomingites over age 21 could have marijuana for recreational use, according to a proposed initiative before the Wyoming Secretary of State's Office.

The 13-page proposed initiative was submitted last week by the Wyoming chapter of the National Organization for Reform of Marijuana Laws, members of which have been working on the initiative since the fall. Wyoming NORML hopes to have an initiative before voters in the 2016 election, but the group must first clear hurdles with the state.

Initiative supporters will face opposition from the Wyoming Association of Sheriffs and Chiefs of Police.


The proposed initiative is a hybrid of several states’ marijuana laws or bills, including Colorado, Washington and Wisconsin, said Jackson resident Chris Christian, executive director of Wyoming NORML.

While recreational uses of pot would only be allowed for people age 21 and older, people under age 21 could use it medically if approved by a doctor and guardian, Christian said.

The purchase of marijuana wouldn’t be exclusive to Wyoming residents. Out-of-state residents would be allowed to have the same amounts, too.

“We’re going to bypass all that stuff Colorado did,” Christian said, referring to the Centennial State’s marijuana laws that distinguish a lower amount of pot that out-of-state residents can buy compared to Colorado residents.

The proposed initiative would decriminalize recreational use and public displays of 3 ounces or less of marijuana.

The proposed initiative establishes penalties for more than 4 ounces of marijuana, except in the cases of people called caregivers who teach medical patients how to use it. The proposed initiative would make it a felony for everyone other than registered caregivers to have more than 12 ounces, with prison time starting at one year and fines starting at $100,000.

Driving under the influence of marijuana would be illegal, the proposed initiative states.

State employees who use marijuana cannot be fired, the proposed initiative states.

Patients would qualify for medical marijuana by a physician who has applied for permission to offer the service by the Wyoming Department of Health. Patients would need to get assistance from caregivers, who are registered by the Wyoming Department of Health. Caregivers could help them acquire pot or teach them to grow it. Caregivers must have never been convicted of a felony involving illegal drugs, a violent felony or any felony in the past 10 years, the proposed initiative states.

“This is someone you hire, like a nurse’s aide, who you hire to help with your elderly parents,” Christian said of caregivers. “They might teach you how to take the oil from it, how to make food dishes.”

Some language in the proposed initiative is purposely vague, Christian said, so that the Wyoming Department of Health can decide whether to delegate regulations to local departments of health.

“We left a lot of leeway deliberately in there so they could make their own program that would work for them,” she said.

For recreational use, retail dispensaries would be regulated by the Wyoming Liquor Control Board. Towns and cities would be allowed to entirely ban sale or dispensing of recreational marijuana. They could also restrict business hours, locations and the number of licenses within Wyoming liquor laws, the proposed initiative states.

Sales tax on recreational pot could not exceed 25 percent of the wholesale value. Sales taxes would go toward administering the program, with additional revenue going to the state's General Fund, which is the account that funds state government operations. Excise taxes, which are taxes government levies on a specific product or service, cannot exceed 15 percent prior to Jan. 1, 2020. Afterward, the Wyoming Legislature can determine the rate. Excise taxes would go to the public school capital construction fund, the proposed initiative states.

Forms of hemp used for making rope or hay would be legal and regulated, Christian said.


Before the initiative appears on the ballot, Wyoming NORML must clear hurdles with the state. That includes legal review by the Wyoming Attorney General’s Office and the Legislative Services Office. State agency directors must estimate fiscal impacts, said Peggy Nighswonger, state elections director.

By Jan. 21, the Secretary of State’s staff and NORML representatives will meet and discuss whether the proposed initiative is written in a way to conform with state laws.

A petition must be printed and signatures must be gathered from across the state, Christian said

The number of signatures necessary to get the initiative on the ballot will be a portion of the number of voters in the 2014 election, Christian said.

In addition to the initiative effort, Rep. Sue Wallis, R-Recluse, has said she intends to introduce a medical marijuana bill before the Legislature, which convenes Feb. 10.

The board of the Wyoming Association of Sheriffs and Chiefs of Police is opposed to legalizing marijuana, Byron Oedekoven, the group’s executive director, said.

Oedekoven noted that experts at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and other federal agencies have not recommended legalization.

“It was initially touted as being for terminal or end-of-life (care), if you will, but the sheer number of folks that have medical exemptions or allowances has increased far above what (law enforcement) would want it to be,” he said of medical marijuana laws.

He believes legalization will bring more pot into the state and not all of it will be lawfully purchased. Some could be purchased from Mexican cartels.

“I’m not sure we want to finance their operations,” he said. “We’re already fighting guns and crime.”

More people will drive under the influence of marijuana if it were legalized, which poses a risk on Wyoming roads, Oedekoven said.

“We’re doing our best to make a difference in death from traffic accidents,” he said. “(Legalization) will make an impact on that.”

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

Copyright 2015 Casper Star-Tribune Online. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

(28) Comments

  1. Raza1956
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    Raza1956 - February 05, 2015 4:42 pm
    Most of the people in Wyoming that are against Legalization of Pot , Are afraid that it will put a big hole in there pocket book , because the are either alcholics themselves , or Pill popers , and they also , are afraid to admit that they have been wrong all thse years . Then you have those that have investments in Alchol or Law enforcement.
  2. Kool Kat
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    Kool Kat - March 08, 2014 6:27 pm
    Attn donarc, the legislators are responding off the people's will of Wyoming.
  3. tripghetaway
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    tripghetaway - March 08, 2014 5:36 pm
    If you believe in the legalization of marijuana then Support Project Marijuana on Indiegogo
  4. donarc
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    donarc - February 21, 2014 9:36 am
    I was raised in CA, then raised my children in WA. my husband was given some kind of cannibus pills while doing chemo to help him eat. It is hard to live in state that is ruled by police- not the people. By the way, my husband was diagnosed with Non hodgkins lymphoma in 2001. Did Chemo 3 times till 2005, then was given an experimental drug(Bexar) along with ,again those same marijuana pills and he is in remission since 2006 .Amen for those pills. He would not be here if it wasn't for those pills because he could not eat or hold anything down.
  5. The Dude Abides
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    The Dude Abides - January 17, 2014 8:41 pm
    One of the chief results of legalized cannabis is that users drink less; some give up on alcohol altogether once they realize they can get a buzz without shredding their liver and/or pancreas...the liquor pushers are scared to death of legalized cannabis.
  6. ChrisChristian
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    ChrisChristian - January 16, 2014 5:00 am
    I am certain that most of us aware but in case: Look into the ownership of a Local Alcoholic Beverage Manufacturer; Wyoming whiskey is a Mead Family Interest. Now do we understand why Mead says no pot in Wyoming??? Thanks for this information.
  7. Immortal3333
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    Immortal3333 - January 15, 2014 8:58 am
    the greatest plant in the universe is almost free, LET FREEDOM RING!!!13

    from 0 states to half the country, from low 20% approval to almost 70%....cali runs this country by almost 20 years, sad and scary

    legalization is just around the corner now, seems like yesterday it was illegal EVERYWHERE, lol...ride on my crew

  8. Cowboy Joe
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    Cowboy Joe - January 15, 2014 8:52 am
    Ultimately it will take a vote of the people. Otherwise it is going to require a majority of arrogant law makers to fess up that they have been wrong all these years and that is far more than most egotistical old men can do.
  9. malcolmkyle
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    malcolmkyle - January 15, 2014 3:35 am
    Ryan Donaghy, Chairman of the Board Donaghy Sales, LLC Alcoholic beverage distributer, steadily funds anti-marijuana efforts

    Ron Fowler, Immediate Past Chairman Liquid Investments, LLC Alcoholic beverage distributer, steadily funds anti-marijuana efforts

    Tom Reyes, Vice Chairman Crest Beverage, LLC; Gate City Beverage Distributors-San Bernardino; Harbor Distributing, LLC-Anaheim, Gardena, Santa Ana Alcoholic beverage distributer, steadily funds anti-marijuana efforts

    David "Duke" Reyes, Chief Financial Officer Crest Beverage, LLC; Gate City Beverage Distributors-San Bernardino; Harbor Distributing, LLC-Anaheim, Gardena, Santa Ana Alcoholic beverage distributer, steadily funds anti-marijuana efforts

    Peter Heimark, Secretary Heimark Distributing Co. Triangle Distributing Co. Alcoholic beverage distributer, steadily funds anti-marijuana efforts

    Terence Fox, NBWA CA Director M.E. Fox and Co. Alcoholic beverage distributer, steadily funds anti-marijuana efforts

    Travis Markstein, NBWA CA Director Markstein Beverage Co. Sacramento; Markstein Beverage Co. San Marcos Alcoholic beverage distributer, steadily funds anti-marijuana efforts

    Cherisse Alford, CBBD PAC Chair Alford Distributing, Alcoholic beverage distributer, steadily funds anti-marijuana efforts

    Jeff Jordano, Management Committee Member Pacific Beverage Co. Alcoholic beverage distributer, steadily funds anti-marijuana efforts

    T.J. Louderback, Management Committee Member Anheuser-Busch In Bev Sales Inc. of Pomona and Antelope Valley, Alcoholic beverage distributer, steadily funds anti-marijuana efforts
    etc. etc. etc.

  10. JohnThomas
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    JohnThomas - January 14, 2014 10:19 pm
    From the article:

    >>>"Initiative supporters will face opposition from the Wyoming Association of Sheriffs and Chiefs of Police."

    Remember when police used to use the excuse - "We don't make the laws, we just enforce them." - Funny how we don't hear that much anymore. I guess it's because they've got their arms stuck down to the elbows in the law-making process now.

    Can you say, "CONFLICT OF INTEREST?"

    As others have noted, it's beyond absurd to say ending prohibition will aid the black-market gangs. Of course it will end them, just like ending alcohol prohibition did.

    And driving? - Some people think marijuana consumption causes accidents like alcohol does. It doesn't, for various reasons. Research has shown marijuana is less intoxicating. More importantly, while alcohol drinkers think they are better drivers and so drive faster and more aggressively, marijuana consumers are very aware of their altered consciousness and correctly judge when they are too impaired to drive - refraining from doing so. If they must, they correctly compensate for their altered state by driving slower and more cautiously.

    The point is, judgment is not affected like it is with alcohol. Marijuana consumers simply don't put themselves or others in harm's way. Consequently, the preponderance of the research shows marijuana is NOT a significant cause of auto accidents

    Marijuana and Driving: A Review of the Scientific Evidence


    The Hartford Courant confirms this:

    >>>"States that legalized the medical use of marijuana have had a drop in deadly automobile crashes, suggesting that some people who would otherwise drive drunk and kill someone are smoking weed instead, according to research by three economists."
  11. Ghost
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    Ghost - January 14, 2014 7:17 pm
    Or just fill up your new prison in Torrington so you can pay millions of Wyoming taxpayer dollars to Colorado to house your inmates like you did all through the 1990's and early to mid 2000's. Win WIn for Colorado. They will make money selling pot and even more jailing Wyoming inmates. Way to be fiscally responsible Wyoming!


  12. ChrisChristian
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    ChrisChristian - January 14, 2014 5:41 pm
    Excellent points. Thanks!
  13. ChrisChristian
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    ChrisChristian - January 14, 2014 5:31 pm
    This is a misquote: Please correct. "Towns and cities would be allowed to entirely ban sale or dispensing of recreational marijuana. " The Initiative actually states "Towns and cities would *NOT BE* allowed to ban entirely".

    Chris Christian for Wyoming NORML
  14. David Joseph
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    David Joseph - January 14, 2014 5:27 pm
    Thumbs up!
  15. David Joseph
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    David Joseph - January 14, 2014 5:26 pm
    Don't assume that they're clueless just because they say something that's incorrect. Cops are trained to lie to the people.
  16. David Joseph
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    David Joseph - January 14, 2014 5:25 pm
    Very eloquently said, thank you.
  17. WhatTha
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    WhatTha - January 14, 2014 5:20 pm
    Lets look at the brass tax. Colorado for an example.

    "Colorado, the first state to allow retail recreational marijuana sales to adults age 21 and older, has projected nearly $600 million in combined wholesale and retail marijuana sales annually. The state, which expects to collect nearly $70 million in tax revenue from pot sales this year"


    What could we do with that tax money? Could we not augment our State with money? Why would we not MAKE money from the end of prohibition and use it for causes that are greater then lining the pockets of the law enforcement? Instead of SPEND money locking people up. It's truly pathetic.
  18. WhatTha
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    WhatTha - January 14, 2014 5:14 pm
    Well said Chris. Keep it up!
  19. WhatTha
    Report Abuse
    WhatTha - January 14, 2014 5:12 pm
    Well said.
  20. WhatTha
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    WhatTha - January 14, 2014 5:11 pm
    Of corse this dolt would point out to a death rate issue. How many people drive drunk in Wyoming? You don't see them trying to make it illegal. They just throw that stuff out there to make it seem like there are real reasons when clearly they are wrong.
  21. WhatTha
    Report Abuse
    WhatTha - January 14, 2014 5:10 pm
    "but the sheer number of folks that have medical exemptions or allowances has increased far above what (law enforcement) would want it to be"

    Who the eff is he? This guy can say literally that he can define how many people can use a medication for medical use? As in, only five thousand people can use tylenol today! Who cares what the law enforcement WANTS it to be. Law enforcement is to work FOR THE PEOPLE, NOT FOR THEMSELVES.

    And wake up Bud....the mexican cartels aren't the ones with the good stuff. He must be entirely clueless......
  22. perplexedjohn
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    perplexedjohn - January 14, 2014 4:44 pm
    along with the smoking stuff I would like to see a legislature propose the growing of industrial hemp that would provide a stimulus to anybody with 20 acres or so. I have a hoodie bought in Canada that is part hemp and recycled plastic. Why is wyoming always on the bottom of the curve?Don't answer I already know
  23. ChrisChristian
    Report Abuse
    ChrisChristian - January 14, 2014 4:18 pm
    I am well please by Laura's article and am quite happy to learn the names of the opposition in the Law Enforcement sector. We will be "opening a dialogue" with them.

    Prohibition is based on many, many years of deliberate misinformation and outright deceit from agencies that *should* be reliable and have proven not to be. NIH is still putting out outright Lies about Cannabis as are the DEA and the FDA websites. It takes real determination to sort out the facts - but we've had experts doing that for years too and the evidence - that which cops are so keen on - is that all of the reasons for keeping Cannabis illegal are refuted 10 times over by pure scientific fact.

    We have scientific studies - not all done out of the country either - that refute every single excuse that the police can come up with for preventing legalization. The facts just don't support the continuing efforts by law enforcement to keep their jobs. It's the biggest budget cut Wyoming will ever GET TO make in furloughs of hundreds of police officers, prison guards and support staff even if we bring all of the for-profit Prison farm-outs we're paying through the nose for. But looking at brighter days and brighter jobs in the Cannabis industry should shore up those battered by attrition.

    There will be thousands of new jobs - security guards for warehousing and retail stores. Inspection and monitoring jobs. Transportation and harvesting jobs. I know cops just love being cops but we do want to make a big impression on them by telling them that they've often violated our rights, knowingly entrapped us, caused families to separate and be destroyed, accused people falsely and manufactured evidence to put people in prison for this substance and we don't have a lot of sympathy for the "force" losing it's high position in our government's budgeting or sanction.

    Half way measures do just that - only cover part of the problem as witnessed in California's 10 year long struggle against a vindictive prosecutor that simply will not admit that the war on drugs is as futile as was alcohol prohibition. The war has made crime rates higher and cost far too much in terms of lives lost, money spent and esteem as a world leader. To quote Eric Holder, " this is simply not sustainable>" So you cops get ready for some retraining huh? We'll give you a stun gun just in case :)
  24. rigrat
    Report Abuse
    rigrat - January 14, 2014 2:15 pm
    One day it will,give it time.
  25. rigrat
    Report Abuse
    rigrat - January 14, 2014 2:14 pm
  26. Cowboy Joe
    Report Abuse
    Cowboy Joe - January 14, 2014 9:22 am
    It is really sad that the law enforcement folks think that legalization and regulation will help the cartels of Latin America. How clueless are these folks? Right now they get 100% of the profits, I wonder if Byron Oedekoven missed out on the lessons of prohibition and the violence that the prohibition of alcohol brought? Ultimately cops are afraid of loosing out on the cash cow that is the war on weed. Wouldn't it be nice to have weed contribute to the state coffers instead of being a drain?
  27. stickalose
    Report Abuse
    stickalose - January 14, 2014 9:11 am
    Well said.
  28. The Dude Abides
    Report Abuse
    The Dude Abides - January 14, 2014 8:31 am
    Put it on the ballot, and let the people decide. That's the American way and how a democracy operates. I, for one, don' want to live in a police state where law enforcement decides and comments on public policy; their job is to enforce laws, not to make them. Law enforcement's objection to legalization and/or decriminalization is purely selfish; they fear losing funding and personnel since more than 25% of their business involves locking up cannabis users, and since cannabis users are usually peaceful, young, and generally not politically connected, the LEOs consider them to be the "low hanging fruit" of arrests. Just think of all the time and money that is spent training and purchasing drug dogs and training officers just to prosecute and ruin the lives of American citizens who choose to use the least harmful of recreational drugs. Put it to a vote.
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