Daily Caller News Foundation

Wyoming considers decriminalizing pot possession

Daily Caller News Foundation logo
Greg Campbell Contributor
Font Size:

The Wyoming state legislature will consider a bill that would lower the penalties for possessing less than an ounce of marijuana, a move that would vastly reduce the legal risks for residents who return to the state after visiting pot stores in neighboring Colorado.

Currently, what’s allowed for adults in Colorado can equal a year in jail and a $1,000 fine for first offenders in Wyoming. A third marijuana conviction could result in a five-year prison sentence and a $5,000 fine.

A bill sponsored by Wyoming Democratic Rep. James Byrd would reduce the penalties for possession of less than an ounce of marijuana. Fines would be $50 for possession of up to half an ounce, and $100 for possession of between a half ounce and an ounce.

Byrd told the Star Tribune that he decided to sponsor the bill after talking to law enforcement officers who believe it’s a waste of time processing nonviolent offenders for possession.

“We fill up our jails with young people,” Byrd told the paper. “We set all sorts of traps for young people. Look at the arrest rates for young people. Look at the arrests for marijuana. We ruin lives.”

“The only thing it does is take their law enforcement people off the street for what they consider a lesser offense,” he continued. “They’re not going to come out and publicly state this and I’m not going to state who in law enforcement I had the discussions with. They look at it as tying up their resources.”

The Wyoming Association of Sheriffs and Chiefs of Police, however, is likely to oppose decriminalizing marijuana possession, with executive director Byron Oedekoven telling the Star Tribune that most pot smokers “participated in a felony” by bringing drugs in from Mexico.

“Decriminalization is usually the first step on the path to legalization,” he said.

Wyoming officials have long been concerned about marijuana migrating across the Colorado border since Colorado legalized sales of recreational marijuana on Jan. 1. Any adult with valid ID can possess up to an ounce of pot; out of state visitors can purchase up to a quarter ounce at a time at state-sanctioned marijuana stores.

Byrd told the paper that he’s not worried that his bill will increase minor trafficking across state lines because it happens already.

Wyoming will also consider a bill legalizing medical marijuana and there may be a citizens’ initiative legalizing recreational use on the 2016 ballot.

The legislature convenes on Feb. 10.

Follow Greg on Twitter

Content created by The Daily Caller News Foundation is available without charge to any eligible news publisher that can provide a large audience. For licensing opportunities of our original content, please contact licensing@dailycallernewsfoundation.org.

Content created by The Daily Caller News Foundation is available without charge to any eligible news publisher that can provide a large audience. For licensing opportunities of our original content, please contact licensing@dailycallernewsfoundation.org.