The fact that so many of their constituents want marijuana laws loosened should spur lawmakers to action. But so should the haphazard nature of legalization in the region. Already, there are Wyomingites who work in neighboring states where marijuana is legal, only to return home in the evenings to a place where they could be jailed for possession. And it’s possible that even within our borders, marijuana could eventually become legal. On the Wind River Reservation, both the Eastern Shoshone and Northern Arapaho have taken steps recently toward loosening marijuana rules.
That could soon result in a reality similar to what we’ve experienced with gambling. Until recently, games of chance were illegal in Wyoming. But people could still gamble at casinos on the reservation, and eventually, gray-area games of chance began sprouting up in some businesses. Finally, lawmakers had to step in to address what had become a confusing issue.
We could avoid that with marijuana by examining the matter proactively, rather than waiting for our hand to be forced. Unfortunately, lawmakers did not include marijuana policy on their list of interim topics. The Judiciary Committee — the likely venue for such a study — will review non-compete clauses and electronic court records, but has no plans to discuss an issue that many Wyomingites have strong feelings about. That oversight should be rectified.
A study could answer many pressing questions about legalization, including the two most obvious: would it improve Wyoming’s revenue situation and would it impact crime in our state? There are others. Would marijuana cultivation be a boon to our agricultural sector? Would it help Wyomingites with medical issues that are now going unresolved?