While Wyoming is surrounded by states like Utah and Montana, that allows the legal use of medical marijuana, and Colorado that has legalized majiuana in all forms, Wyoming still has some of the harshest penalties for marijuana in the country and according to information on the American Civil Liberties Union website, one of the highest marijuana arrest rates per-capita .
According to Wyoming state law when it comes to being under the influence of marijuana, “Any person using or under the influence of marijuana is subject to a misdemeanor punishable by a maximum of 6 months imprisonment and a maximum fine of $750, or both.”
In regards to possession of marijuana, “Possession of three ounces or less is a misdemeanor punishable by no more than 12 months’ imprisonment and a maximum fine of $1,000, or both.” “Possession of more than 3 ounces is a felony punishable by a maximum of 5 years imprisonment and a maximum $10,000 fine, or both.”
For the sale of marijuana the law states that, “Sale of any amount is a felony punishable by a maximum of 10 years imprisonment and a maximum fine of $10,000 or both.” When it comes to cultivation, it states that, “Cultivating any amount of marijuana is a misdemeanor, punishable by a maximum of 6 months imprisonment and a maximum fine of $1,000.”
The law prohibits the possession of paraphernalia and states, “Possession of paraphernalia is a crime which is punishable by a maximum of 6 months imprisonment and a maximum fine of $750.
Wyoming state law also places additional fines or imprisonment after the third offense. “A third or subsequent offense for possession of more than 3 ounces is punishable by a maximum of 5 years imprisonment, a maximum fine of $5,000, or both.”
Along with these laws, and similarly to alcohol laws, the law prohibits adults from distributing marijuana to minors. “Anyone adult who distributes marijuana to someone under the age of 18 who is more than 3 years his junior is subject to felony charge, with a maximum penalty of 20 years imprisonment and/or a $10,000 fine. A conviction within 500 feet from a school is subject to an additional $500 fine.”
In a recent session earlier this year, there were three cannabis-related bills that were killed. House Bill 278 was sponsored by House Majority Floor Leader Eric Barlow (R-Gillette) would have legalized medical marijuana. House Bill 258 was to approve a study to test how medical marijuana could be implemented in the state. The last measure, House Bill 234 sponsored by Rep. Tyler Lindholm (R-Sundance) purpose was to reduce penalties for possession of marijuana but died during an 1-8 vote where there only supporter which was freshman Representative Sarah Burlingame (D-Cheyenne).
These bills dying isn’t surprising to Wyoming residents, in an interview with Representative Bunky Loucks, a representative who has sponsored some of these legalization bills such as HB0278, he stated that the Wyoming legislature just doesn’t have the votes to pass any of these bills as of right now. He also stated that the leadership will keep bills from being heard.
This lack of support isn’t an appropriate representation of the population of Wyoming’s opinion on this topic. In October of 2018 the University of Wyoming held a survey finding that nearly half (49%) of Wyoming inhabitants support the legal possession of marijuana for personal use.
Representative Loucks stated that he doesn’t believe there will be much traction regarding the legalization of marijuana anytime soon but also stated that, “Things could change, but I don’t think we’re there yet.” The Representative also stated that it’s a tragedy that we continue to charge people for crimes against marijuana, that the younger generations of WY are receiving a disservice when their lives are forever alerted for the simple use or possession of marijuana when alcohol still remains legal.