EVANSTON, Wyoming – After Wyoming state lawmakers turned down a bill to legalize medical cannabis this year, proponents are reaching out to voters with two election initiatives for 2022.
“It deserves to be discussed. And since they haven’t discussed it? We’ll leave the people of Wyoming,” said Madonna Long, who supports the initiative.
Long, a resident of Kemmerer who campaigned for lawmakers to pass a medical cannabis bill, said she believed an election initiative would be adopted in Wyoming, one of the few western states that does not yet have access to cannabis.
“The patients – the people with chronic illnesses, people with disabilities like me, the people who may have MS, Parkinson’s, spinal injuries, epilepsy – all of these people benefit from cannabis therapies,” she said in an interview with FOX 13 on Thursday.
Long was injured in a bus accident in which she sustained a spinal cord injury. She said she continues to suffer from spam and is now using a wheelchair.
“For people like me? People who suffer from chronic convulsions? It would help them a lot, ”she said of cannabis use.
Two ballot proposals will be presented to the Wyoming Secretary of State in Cheyenne on Friday. One will create a medical cannabis program with pharmacies and give people the opportunity to grow their own limited amount of plants. The other would decriminalize marijuana in Wyoming.
Wyoming lawmakers are considering a bill that will also legalize recreational marijuana. A committee passed it, but it was not even considered in plenary.
One electoral initiative will only focus on access to medical supplies, the other will be an initiative to decriminalize marijuana.
“I’m not going to leave anything to chance. I’m not going to leave it to lawmakers like we did here in Utah. I’m going to drive a voting initiative and give patients what they deserve,” said Christine Stenquist, director of Together for Responsible Use and Cannabis Education (TRUCE), which sponsored the Utah Medical Cannabis Voting Initiative and is now working on cannabis issues in Wyoming.
Stenquist said she expected opposition to an initiative, but not quite on the scale of Utah’s highly competitive proposal 2.
“I don’t think we’re going to see the same struggle. We don’t have the same stakeholders in Wyoming as we do here,” she told FOX 13 in a recent interview. “The LDS Church in particular is not the big adversary we are concerned about in Wyoming.”
The Wyoming Medical Association declined an attempt at a voting initiative in 2016 and is expected to oppose it. Wyoming law enforcement groups also opposed cannabis laws in lawmakers.
But polls have shown that support for medical marijuana has increased in Wyoming – up to 85% last year, according to a survey by the University of Wyoming. Around 54% of respondents are in favor of recreational marijuana and 75% support decriminalization of marijuana.
To receive an initiative to vote in Wyoming, backers must collect 100 signatures from sponsors. If these are validated, they will have nearly 31,000 signatures across the state over the next year. When these are reviewed, the issues will be put on the 2022 voter ballot.
Support for a campaign is already building. The National Libertarian Party is investing some resources, Stenquist said, as are other cannabis groups.
“The public wants this. They have wanted this for a long time,” she said.
Long said she plans to work on signature-collecting events in Evanston and the surrounding area as soon as they can begin. She wants to make sure patient stories are told by collecting stories on a website for the Wyoming Patients Coalition.
“It really is all of these people’s stories put together to help our leaders and the people in our communities understand that this is going to be good for Wyoming,” Long said.