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Legislature Lowers Marijuana Penalties


A bill to lower the penalty for marijuana possession of three ounces or less passed the Wyoming House of Representatives today. The vote for House Bill 157 was nearly unanimous with 52 votes in favor.

Cheyenne Representative Jared Olsen sponsored the bill in an effort to save prison costs.

"Right now the current law says if you have in your possession 3 ounces of marijuana or less, it’s up to a year in prison and a thousand dollar fine," said Olsen. "And that’s part of what’s plaguing our prison, overcrowding our prison, and it’s part of our funding issue on the pen-side. And it’s also, we’re not treating people for the issues that they have, we’re just putting people in prison and creating felons."

Olsen said the bill also establishes an elevated misdemeanor for a third offense, so those convicted won’t become felons. A fourth offense would still be a felony.

Laramie Representative Charles Pelkey, who is in favor of complete decriminalization of marijuana, said he voted for the bill not because it’s perfect, but because it’s a step in the right direction.

The bill now moves to the Senate for further debate.


Maggie Mullen is Wyoming Public Radio's regional reporter with the Mountain West News Bureau. Her work has aired on NPR, Marketplace, Science Friday, and Here and Now. She was awarded a 2019 regional Edward R. Murrow Award for her story on the Black 14.
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