Last year, two cannabis reform ballot measures were formally approved by the Wyoming Secretary of State’s office. Activists set out to collect 41,775 valid voter signatures to place two separate cannabis policy reform questions on the 2022 ballot — one that would establish a medical cannabis program for patients in the state and another that would decriminalize the personal possession of limited quantities of cannabis.
Unfortunately, these efforts faced several challenges — included delayed approval of the petitions by the state — and announced that they would not be able to submit the required number of signatures in time for the February deadline. Instead, activists will turn their attention towards qualifying their measures for the 2024 ballot while also focusing on reform through the state legislature in the meantime.
This year, the Wyoming legislative session focuses exclusively on the state budget, while 2023 holds promise as an opportunity to pass cannabis policy reform. A statewide poll from 2020 found that 54% of Wyoming residents support legalizing and regulating cannabis for adults — an increase of almost 20 points from 2014.
Legalization proposed, but did not pass, in 2021 session
During the 2021 legislative session, committees passed HB 209, which would have legalized, taxed, and regulated cannabis for adults, and HB 82, which would have required the state to study the possible creation of a medical cannabis program. Unfortunately, the full House chamber took up neither bill before its deadline to do so.
Wyoming's neighbors in Colorado, South Dakota, and Montana have all legalized cannabis for adults. A recent pollfound that 54 percent of Wyomingites support legalizing personal possession of cannabis for adults.
ACLU study shows staggering racial disparities in cannabis arrests
According to a 2018 ACLU study, Wyoming ranks ninth in the nation for the greatest racial disparities in cannabis possession arrests. Black individuals in Wyoming are 5.2 times more likely to be arrested for cannabis possession as whites, despite similar usage rates.
Lawmakers recently introduced two proposals that would change that. HB 106 would decriminalize small amounts of cannabis for adults, while HB 143 would establish a medical cannabis program for patients with serious health conditions in the state. Both bills would reduce senseless arrests for cannabis and make Wyoming a more just state to live in.