For the longest time, Wyoming has made it clear that it doesn’t like marijuana. It was one of the first to ban cannabis and is now one of the two Mountain states adamantly holding out against legalization of both medical and recreational marijuana. This is despite being direct neighbors with Colorado. However, last year’s “green wave” that saw 4 states legalize marijuana may have knocked some sense into the Equality State’s antiquated weed laws.
Like in other states that have held out against cannabis legalization, this year’s bills are sponsored by Republican lawmakers whose hands have been forced by the situation. There are already two bills set to make their way through the legislature in the following months: HB 82, which aims to allocate funds for medical marijuana research, and HB 209, a full legalization bill.
HB 209 is particularly surprising since in addition to legalizing possession and purchase of up to 3 ounces of pot for adults 21 and over and establishing a regulated marijuana industry in Wyoming, it will also allow home growing of up to 12 plants for personal use. This cultivation limit is way higher than that of other states where marijuana had been legal for much longer.
According to the bill’s primary sponsor Chairman Jared Olsen (R), majority of Wyomingites and the rest of the country already support marijuana reform and there is a chance that their voters could use the ballot initiative process to end cannabis prohibition if the legislature doesn’t act.
Former U.S. senator and Rhode Island Gov. Lincoln Chafee, who now resides in Wyoming, echoed the sentiment and said that Olsen’s bill will help keep as much control as possible over every aspect of legalization. Chafee added that the bill will also create a lucrative revenue stream that can be used for necessary government services and to keep taxes down.
Overview of Wyoming Marijuana Laws
Wyoming has some of the strictest cannabis laws in the nation, just being caught while under the influence already gets jail time.
- Possession – All kinds of simple possession of up to 3 oz will be considered a misdemeanor while any amount greater is a felony. There is an additional $500 fine if caught within 500 feet of a school.
- Caught under the influence – Jail time of up to 6 months and a maximum fine of $750, or both.
- Up to 3 oz – Jail time of up to a year and a maximum fine of $1000, or both.
- More than 3 oz – Jail time of up to 5 years and a maximum fine of $10,000, or both.
- Sale/Distribution – The sale and distribution of any amount is a felony receiving the same punishment as possessing more than 3 oz.
- Cultivation – Strangely enough, the cultivation of any amount of marijuana in Wyoming only gets a misdemeanor punishable by up to 6 months jail time and a maximum fine of $1000.
History of Marijuana in Wyoming
Wyoming was one of the first states to ban cannabis in 1913, along with California, Maine and Indiana. While the other three states have since moved on, it’s not surprising that barely anything has moved forward in terms of marijuana reform in the Cowboy State, which has a reputation for being rural and conservative. In fact, a poll by the University of Wyoming back in 2014 showed that residents were still strongly opposed to adult-use cannabis, with only 35% in favor.
However, the poll also showed a slow but noticeable shift in opinion on marijuana by Wyomingites. The percentage of those in favor actually increased from 23% in a previous survey done in 2000. In addition, as much as 72% of the respondents in both polls were in favor of medical marijuana.
Around this time, efforts to push legalization were already picking up steam. In 2015, the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) ran a signature campaign to get medical marijuana legalization on the 2016 ballot. The year after, lawmakers attempted for the third time to pass a decriminalization legislation in the House and in 2017 marijuana supporters ran another signature campaign to put the Peggy A. Kelley Wyoming Cannabis Act of 2016 on the 2018 ballot. However, it was obvious that the time was not yet ripe and none of the attempts came to fruition. As if to throw a bone to sick Wyomingites in need of medical cannabis, the state approved a law allowing CBD oil for seizures but the law was so restrictive that it did not even allow in-state access.
Marijuana home cultivation laws outside of Wyoming
How do Wyoming marijuana laws compare with home growing laws in other US states? Check out our post on Marijuana Growing Laws in the United States.
FAQs about marijuana legalization in Wyoming
No, adult-use cannabis is still illegal in Wyoming.
None. Home cultivation of recreational cannabis is not allowed in Wyoming.
No, medical cannabis is still illegal in Wyoming.
Wyoming HB0082 was introduced in the House of Representatives just this January. The legislation seeks a report and timeline on the implementation of medical marijuana from the state’s Department of Health.
None. Home cultivation of medical cannabis is not allowed in Wyoming.
Residents are not allowed to cultivate marijuana, whether recreational or medical, at home in Wyoming.
Growing marijuana in Wyoming is strictly illegal for residents of all ages.
Marijuana advocates believe that certain interest groups in the state, particularly the local law enforcement association, have been aggressively lobbying to block marijuana efforts in the legislature. However, Wyoming will soon have to face the music as it is increasingly getting crowded by pro-marijuana in the region and it is inevitable that the spillover will force the hand of lawmakers.
Based on the UW’s latest survey which shows a compelling approval of 54% in favor of recreational marijuana and 85% for medical and the introduction of WY HB0082, it seems that the dam may be about to break this year and under the Biden administration, patients in the “Reddest State” may finally get the medication that they desperately need.