2016 is going to be a big year for cannabis. As a result, we are ranking the fifty states from worst to best on how they treat cannabis and those who consume it. Each of our State of Cannabis posts will analyze one state and our final post will crown the best state for cannabis. As is always the case, but particularly so with this series, we welcome your comments. This is our seventh post in the series and the following is a recap of where we are with the rankings, from worst (number 50) to this week’s number 44. Wyoming; 45. Texas; 46. Kansas; 47. Alabama; 48. Idaho; 49. Oklahoma; 50. South Dakota.
Criminal Penalties. In Wyoming, marijuana intoxication is a misdemeanor punishable by up to six months in jail and a $750 fine. Cultivating any amount of marijuana is a misdemeanor that can earn you 6 months in prison and a fine of up to $1,000. Possession of three ounces or less of cannabis is also a misdemeanor that can warrant up to 12 months imprisonment and a fine of up to $1,000.
The felony charges for marijuana are much harsher than the misdemeanors. A person in possession of more than 3 ounces of marijuana faces a potential 5-year prison sentence and a $10,000 fine. Those same penalties apply to the sale or distribution of any amount of marijuana. In other words, selling a gram of marijuana in Wyoming can earn you a half a decade in prison!
The harshest penalties for marijuana are triggered when children are involved. An adult who distributes marijuana to a minor more than three years his or her junior, faces up to 20 years imprisonment and a $10,000 fine. A marijuana conviction within 500 feet of a school is subject to an additional $500 fine.
Medical Marijuana. The Wyoming state legislature recently approved a very restrictive medical marijuana bill, which the Marijuana Policy Project deemed so inadequate as to not consider Wyoming a medical marijuana state:
On July 1, 2015, HB 32 became law after Gov. Matt Mead neither signed nor vetoed the bill. This CBD hemp extract bill will exempt registered individuals with intractable epilepsy from certain criminal penalties for the use and possession of marijuana extracts that are very low in tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and sufficiently high in cannabidiol (CBD). The new law does not provide for in-state cultivation of marijuana or production of hemp oil. Because the law only applies to low-THC marijuana, MPP does not consider Wyoming a medical marijuana state.
Some of other “highlights” of the bill are as follows:
- Only “hemp extracts” with less than 0.3% THC and more than 5% CBD by weight are legal.
- Only patients with intractable epilepsy qualify. In other words, epilepsy is the only qualifying condition.
- The bill does not provide for how patients may obtain their medical cannabis and it is unclear whether they must travel to other states that allow medical marijuana.
Marijuana Reform. An initiative that would have legalized marijuana in Wyoming for recreational purposes failed to gain the requisite number of signatures for placement on the November 2016 ballot and a bill that would have decriminalized marijuana possession also failed to make it through the state legislature. Wyoming NORML is currently collecting signatures for a legalization initiative that would appear on the 2018 ballot.
Unfortunately, the majority of Wyoming voters and lawmakers simply do not want marijuana reform in their state and that sentiment came through loud and clear in a recent Wyoming Tribune Eagle editorial on cannabis:
Not only are these young people’s lives affected, but their use of drugs also has affected those who love them and the community they live in.
Sometimes it is the very parents who are the drug users. Ask yourself if you want stoned truck drivers on the road or stoned teachers teaching your students?
Drug use is epidemic, and legalizing it will not help to solve that problem.
Is making marijuana available to anyone with any illness really the answer?
All drugs are meant for healing and wholeness. Drugs are not meant for recreational purposes.
We need to think long and hard before we go down the road of medical legalization, which is only a stop gap approach to making it legal.
Any look around our communities should be a clear warning that this is a road best not traveled.
Bottomline. Wyoming has a joke of a medical cannabis program and draconian cannabis criminal laws and most of its citizens are fine with all that. Marijuana users should steer (pun intended) clear of Wyoming.