A new bill introduced in Wyoming’s legislature would remove criminal charges for people who use or possess less than three ounces of cannabis.
On Tuesday, Rep. Mark Baker introduced House Bill 0106 to the state House, outlining the proposed regulations.
The bill is co-sponsored by 10 other lawmakers including House speaker Eric Barlow, Rep. Marshall Burt, House majority whip Jared Olson, and Senate minority floor leader Chris Rothfuss.
The legislation needs approval from two-thirds of the House to advance. If approved, it would take effect July 1.
The law would implement an administrative fine of US$100 for marijuana possession under three ounces of flower. It also removes the current possibility of prison time, as well as incrementally higher fines depending on the number of previous drug convictions.
For edibles, tinctures and ointments, people can hold up to 16 ounces, or up to 72 ounces of liquid products without facing criminal charges.
Currently, if a person is caught with less than three ounces, it’s considered a misdemeanor, which could lead to criminal prosecution. If caught with more than that, a person could be in prison for up to 5 years.
In legislative sessions last year, two other bills — HC 209 and HB 82 — looked at legalizing adult and medical use after being passed by the House judiciary committee. The bills failed to be taken up by the House before a deadline.
Last month, advocacy group Marijuana Policy Project said two cannabis reform ballot measures were formally approved by the Wyoming Secretary of State’s office last year. The organization collected over 41,000 signatures to place the two separate bills, including one that regulates a medical cannabis program and a second to decriminalize possession under a certain amount.
Those bills failed due to delays, and not gathering enough signatures before a February deadline.
According to a questionnaire by the Wyoming Survey and Analysis Center, 54 per cent of residents support legalizing and regulating cannabis for adult-use.
Another study by the American Civil Liberties Union found that African-Americans in Wyoming are 5.2 times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession than white people despite similar use rates. The state ranks ninth in the country in terms of high racial disparity related to cannabis enforcement.