By Aedan Hannon
Via- Wyoming News Exchange
CASPER — Two marijuana ballot initiatives have failed after falling short of Wyoming’s county requirements, a marijuana advocacy group announced Thursday.
Wyoming NORML and the Libertarian Party have been collecting signatures for the Wyoming Patient Cannabis Act of 2022 and the Wyoming Cannabis Amendments, two ballot initiatives that they hoped would go before voters on the 2024 ballot.
The Wyoming Patient Cannabis Act of 2022 sought to legalize medical marijuana, while the Wyoming Cannabis Amendments aimed to decriminalize the drug.
Both cleared the first hurdle by meeting Wyoming’s signature requirements. A petition must collect signatures equal to at least 15% of the votes cast in the last general election to make it onto the ballot, the highest rate in the country, according to Ballotpedia.
The Libertarian Party and Wyoming NORML filed the initiatives and began gathering signatures in 2021. High voter turnout in the 2020 presidential election meant that they ultimately had to collect more than 41,000 names.
They had 18 months to reach the threshold with the deadline ending next Tuesday, according to the Wyoming Secretary of State’s Office. As of Thursday, each had collected more than 47,000 signatures, according to a news release, though it’s unclear how many of those were verified by the Secretary of State’s Office.
In January 2022, roughly 80% of the signatures collected by paid carriers had been verified, Apollo Pazell, chief strategist for the national Libertarian Party, told the Star-Tribune.
“Through all the turmoil and uncertainty surrounding these two initiatives, Wyoming voters showed their commitment to medical freedom and the right to try life-changing medications in our state,” Bennett Sondeno, the executive director of Wyoming NORML, said in a news release.
However, the petitions failed to meet Wyoming’s county requirements and neither will go before voters in 2024.
Ballot initiatives in Wyoming are notoriously difficult, and the majority of them never succeed. The Wyoming Constitution requires petitioners to also reach the same 15% signature threshold in at least two-thirds of Wyoming’s 23 counties.
The two marijuana initiatives gathered enough support in 14 counties, including Campbell, Carbon, Laramie, Lincoln and Natrona counties, but they did not reach the 16 counties they needed to appear on the ballot.
It’s not the first time that Wyoming NORML has fallen short on a ballot initiative.
In 2016, the group campaigned for another petition that would have legalized medical cannabis, but it eventually fell short of the ballot.
Wyoming is one of the last states in the West with a complete ban on marijuana.
Colorado legalized recreational marijuana more than a decade ago, while Montana began allowing the sale of cannabis last year. Idaho is the only other holdout in the Mountain West.
Wyoming’s outlaw of marijuana also contradicts public opinion.
A 2020 survey from the University of Wyoming found that 85% of Wyomingites favor legalizing medical marijuana while more than half of residents support legalizing cannabis for recreational use.
While Thursday marked the end of the two petitions, the leaders of Wyoming NORML vowed to carry on its advocacy.
“Wyoming NORML will continue to work with legislators over the upcoming legislative session to bring bills to the floor that utilize the language of each initiative,” the group said in a news release.
The group said it would also look to capitalize on future ballot initiatives to ease marijuana restrictions in Wyoming.