Activists in the state of Wyoming have begun collecting signatures for a ballot initiative that would legalize medical marijuana. Led by the Wyoming chapter of NORML, advocates have until February 8, 2016, to collect 25,673 signatures in order to qualify for the ballot.
Known as “The Peggy A. Kelley Wyoming Cannabis Act of 2016,” the measure would make it legal for patients suffering from debilitating conditions to possess and transport up to three ounces of medical marijuana. Patients would also be allowed to grow up to six marijuana plants, with a limit of three mature plants.
A buffer zone of 1,000 feet would prevent medical marijuana establishments to be built within the vicinity of a publicly-owned library, playground, house of worship, elementary/secondary school or a state-licensed child day-care center.
In order to receive a medical marijuana recommendation, there must be a bona fide physician-patient relationship and the treating physician would have to explain the risks and benefits of medical marijuana. Patients under the age of 18 would need consent from at least one parent or legal guardian in order to receive a recommendation.
Debilitating medical conditions covered under the act would include: glaucoma, cancer, AIDS, HIV, Crohn’s disease, ALS, ulcerative colitis, Alzheimer’s, cachexia, post-traumatic stress disorder, severe pain, severe nausea, persistent muscle spasms and seizures.
Like other legal marijuana states, it would fall to the state’s liquor enforcement division to craft rules and regulations regarding the cultivation, sale, distribution and testing of medical marijuana.
Although Wyoming is typically a conservative state, there is a surprising level of support for medical marijuana. A University of Wyoming poll found that 72 percent of Wyoming residents support medical marijuana, which is consistent with polls dating back to 2000.
However, despite widespread support, both law enforcement and members of Wyoming’s medical community have come out against the measure. The Wyoming Medical Society recently announced its opposition to the measure in a press release.
Comprised of approximately 700 physicians and physician assistants statewide, the group based its opposition to the measure based on the idea that legalizing a medicine through a ballot measure would undermine the FDA process.
However, many medical marijuana advocates would argue that the FDA process is fundamentally flawed and that some people simply do not have the time to wait.
In addition to opposition from the WMS, the Wyoming Association of Sheriffs and Chiefs of Police has announced plans to actively oppose the medical marijuana initiative through a program called “The Marijuana Education and Awareness Project.”
The group plans on teaching the citizens of Wyoming about the “harmful effects of marijuana” by visiting city councils, hospitals, school boards, etc. But even with law enforcement resources, opponents of medical marijuana may face an uphill battle due to the level of public support.