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Organizers announce two marijuana initiatives for 2022 election in Wyoming
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Organizers announce two marijuana initiatives for 2022 election in Wyoming

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Medical marijuana

Demonstrators walk toward the Wyoming Capitol in 2014 to urge the state to legalize marijuana in Cheyenne. Libertarian-led organizers are trying to push pro-marijuana ballot initiatives in Wyoming for the next election.

The state and national Libertarian Party as well as Wyoming community leaders will deliver two marijuana ballot initiatives to the Wyoming secretary of state Friday.

The ballot initiatives are aimed at legalizing medical cannabis and decriminalizing personal use of cannabis, according to a news release.

“We’ve listened to the concerns of conservatives and the needs of patients and veterans and we’ve really tried to balance the initiative that’s beneficial for all stakeholders,” said Apollo Pazell, chief strategist for the national Libertarian Party.

The group plans to have petitioners on the ground throughout this summer and fall and have the signatures needed to get it on the ballot collected by July 31, 2022. The effort is using more than volunteers; the leaders plan to “employ full-time teams on the ground for the next 18 months,” Pazell said.

To get a measure on the ballot, Wyoming requires organizers to gather the number of signatures equal to 15% of votes cast in the last general election. Voter turnout was high in 2020 because of the presidential election.

Roughly 278,000 people voted in Wyoming’s 2020 general election, which means that the initiatives would need more than 41,000 signatures each.

“The Libertarians are super organized and motivated, and they will provide the professional boots on the ground that we lacked the last time that we ran a petition,” said Bennett Sondeno, treasurer of the Wyoming chapter of NORML (National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws).

In 2018, a medical marijuana initiative failed to go out to voters because the secretary of state’s office did not receive the signatures by the deadline.

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The signature requirement of 15% of the previous election’s votes is the highest in the country, according to Ballotpedia. And petitioners also need to secure signatures of 15% of the qualified voters in at least two-thirds of Wyoming’s 23 counties.

“The reality of Wyoming’s rural nature is going to be the biggest challenge to get signatures,” Pazell said. “I’m confident that we will get the certification to get it on the ballot.”

If organizers are successful in advancing the measures, they still require over 50% of total voters in the election to vote to affirm the measure.

While organizers will face logistical challenges, support for marijuana legalization has been growing in the state.

A University of Wyoming study from December shows more than half of residents support legalizing it for recreational use, and 85% are in favor of legalizing medical marijuana.

During the legislative session earlier this year, a pair of bills — one that would have authorized a study on medical marijuana and another aimed at full legalization — died without a hearing in the House. Both passed out of the House Judiciary Committee by a 6-3 vote.

Wyoming is one of just six states where marijuana use and possession are still entirely illegal.

Rep. Jared Olsen, R-Cheyenne, who sponsored the legalization bill, estimated that the state would generate around $50 million in tax revenue during the first year of legalization. Opponents to the bill said it would be hard to regulate dosages and warned of expensive upfront infrastructure costs.

Organizers will hold a news conference Friday at 1 p.m. on the state Capitol steps.

 

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