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House Judiciary Committees Considers Marijuana Legislation

Wyoming Legislature

The Wyoming House Judiciary Committee voted to move forward on a bill that would set up a system for regulating marijuana in the state.

Under the bill, marijuana would be legal for medical use and recreational use for anyone 21 years and older.

According to a December 2020 Wyoming Survey and Analysis Center survey, 54 percent of Wyomingites support legalized marijuana for adults. That's an increase from 37 percent in 2014.

Committee Chair and bill sponsor Jared Olsen said with growing support, legalizing marijuana is something to consider, as residents could potentially bring up a ballot initiative, and it would mean less control for lawmakers on deciding regulation.

Olsen said that while it would take investment from the state to set up the licensing and oversight system, it would generate revenue to support the Wyoming School Foundation and local governments.

"The fiscal note is estimated approximately $50 million per year. Three-quarters of that, or $30.7 million per year would be generated for the school foundation fund, and $15.35 million annually for the local sources fund, and $3.1 million in special revenue, that's the licensing fees in the first year of legalization."

House Bill 209 would give power to local governments to choose whether or not they wanted legalized marijuana operations within their municipalities.

"This local control is very important because the qualified voters of a city, town, or county, have the authority to petition their governing body to either allow by resolution or ordinance or completely prohibit any of these operations within their locality," Olsen said while describing the bill.

The committee heard hours of testimony from agency representatives and residents on both sides of the issue, especially in the case of allowing medical marijuana and the impacts this could have on young adults in the state.

Lawmakers brought up numerous concerns about enforcement, regulation, and state agencies' abilities to take on any additional workload because of this. Some had questions about the impact this could have on the criminal justice system and the Wyoming Department of Corrections in the reduction of incarceration.

The bill will now move on to the House floor.

Have a question about this story? Contact the reporter, Catherine Wheeler, at cwheel11@uwyo.edu.

Catherine Wheeler comes to Wyoming from Kansas City, Missouri. She has worked at public media stations in Missouri and on the Vox podcast "Today, Explained." Catherine graduated from Fort Lewis College with a BA in English. She recently received her master in journalism from the University of Missouri. Catherine enjoys cooking, looming, reading and the outdoors.

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