CHEYENNE – A bill that would fully legalize marijuana in Wyoming has approved a critical vote and increased the possibility of pharmacies along the Utah border.
While there might be another reason for the Utahns to run to Evanston – a popular stop for discounted alcohol, fireworks, and lottery tickets – the border town’s mayor admits he has heartburn.
“We really don’t know yet,” said Mayor Kent Williams. “Should we do that? Shouldn’t we?”
The Wyoming State Legislature’s Judiciary Committee voted 6-3 on Friday for House Bill 209. The bill is now up for debate in the entire House of Representatives.
“House Bill 209 would allow individuals to own and grow marijuana as follows: It allows retail marijuana possession by the legal age of 21,” said Jared Olsen, R-Cheyenne, when presenting the bill.
The bill introduces a 30% tax on marijuana products – something that a tax return accompanying the bill could raise as much as $ 47 million for the state of Wyoming in its first year.
The bill goes further than other bills considered in Wyoming state law. In fact, the House Judiciary Committee didn’t even vote on Bill Henderson’s 82nd Bill, which was just a study on whether Wyoming should only legalize medical cannabis.
“People in Wyoming are increasingly endorsing medical marijuana, so it makes sense to me to develop good policies if we are to develop good policies,” said Rep. Henderson, R-Cheyenne.
Marijuana bills are being pushed by medical cannabis advocates in Wyoming. As FOX 13 reported last month, Christine Stenquist – one of the original supporters of the Utah Medical Cannabis Voting Initiative – is in Cheyenne working with them to get the bills off.
“The bill definitely needs some changes, it takes some work,” she said on Monday. “But it’s positive.”
HB209 also allows communities to opt out of retail marijuana sales. Mayor Williams said he does not personally support legalized marijuana but noted that the bill still has a long way to go to get through lawmakers.
“This is not my concern, so I have concerns,” he told FOX 13. “But I’ll say again that I know I have to protect individual rights at the same time.”
As West Wendover saw when it introduced voter-approved recreational marijuana, Utahns was able to make another run to the border.
“Believe me, they’re going to get a pretty penny from Utah. We’re very frustrated with our program and looking at states that are a little more flexible. They’ll definitely get our dollars,” said Stenquist, referring to Utah’s highly regulated cannabis medical care -Program.
Public comment on the bill was mixed. Some raised concerns about addiction and youth adoption, while others pointed to the need for medicinal cannabis and a potential lucrative source of income for Wyoming.
Stenquist said she was counting the votes in the House and Senate to try to pass the bill. If not, she warned Wyoming could follow in Utah’s footsteps.
“If that doesn’t work, we will vote in Wyoming and they will vote with 85% support,” she said of medical cannabis. “There is an appetite for an election initiative.”