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Signature gathering under way for Wyoming medical cannabis ballot initiative

Posted at 2:34 PM, Sep 17, 2021
and last updated 2021-09-17 20:51:56-04

EVANSTON, Wyoming — Signature gathering is under way in Wyoming to get medical cannabis on the 2022 ballot.

Uinta County residents dropped by an Evanston park to lend their signatures to help it qualify.

"It would be awesome," said Robin Reed. "Because you could go and buy it and not get in trouble."

Penny Deandra said she has used cannabis to treat back pain and depression, and has gotten in trouble with the law in the past for it.

"If you take pills for pain? You have so many side effects and you get addicted," she said.

The initiative before voters would legalize medical cannabis and decriminalize personal possession of marijuana in Wyoming. It was launched after the Wyoming State Legislature failed to act on a bill that would have legalized it (as well as allowed for recreational use).

"We’re encouraging medical freedom and medical liberty," said Madonna Long, one of the initiative sponsors. "Voters truly do understand what the initiative is, and they’re coming here on their own."

The path to the ballot in Wyoming is similar to what happened in Utah when the legislature failed to act and voters approved it. Christine Stenquist, a medical cannabis advocate who sponsored Utah's ballot initiative, is now working in Wyoming to get that initiative passed.

She said there are some differences between the two states.

"We don’t have the presence of the LDS Church. Right out of the gate, that’s the biggest difference. They still are both very conservative states," Stenquist said, but added of Wyoming: "They lean more of a libertarian-Republican flair."

To qualify for the 2022 ballot, sponsors of the ballot initiative must gather roughly 42,000 signatures. Long said they were aiming for 60,000 statewide.

But signature gathering for the initiative is proving to be an early success. The Libertarian Party, another backer of the initiative, announced on Thursday that Hot Springs County had met its signature-gathering threshold with an astounding 80% validation rate.

Events will be held across the state including in Cheyenne and Jackson and some campaign volunteers will go door-to-door to try to collect signatures. Stenquist said they are targeting 17 counties across Wyoming.

"We’re not taking anything for granted on this. We have to make sure that we get every signature possible," she said.

Long believed the effort would be successful. Not only to qualify for the ballot, but in 2022 when voters would ultimately decide cannabis in the state.

"I think we’re going to do great," she said. "I think Wyoming is ready for this. It’s the people of Wyoming now. We’re going to get more than enough signatures that we need."