Colorado's pot law: Officials expect more use, traffic, positive tests in Wyoming

2013-01-01T14:35:00Z 2013-01-02T07:39:04Z Colorado's pot law: Officials expect more use, traffic, positive tests in WyomingBy MEGAN CASSIDY Casper Star-Tribune The Billings Gazette
January 01, 2013 2:35 pm  • 

CASPER, Wyo. — Access to marijuana has never been easier for Wyomingites with transportation. Any point in the state is no more than 180 miles from either Montana, where medicinal marijuana is permitted; or Colorado, where recreational usage is now legal.

In late 2012, Colorado and Washington became the first states in the nation to not only decriminalize but allow adults over 21 to possess an ounce or less.

Under the current Wyoming state law, anyone arrested for possessing up to an ounce of the drug could face up to a year in jail or up to a $1,000 fine. No immunity is offered for those who purchased or received a prescription from out of state.

Lt. Mike Thompson of the Casper Police Department said he’s relatively certain Colorado’s new law will boost the cannabis flow through Wyoming.

“The availability for people to purchase the drug and bring it up here is greater,” he said.

Thompson said Casper officials regularly arrest people with possession of medical marijuana. In most cases, it was purchased by someone else and sold to the end user.

“Even if it’s prescribed to them, it’s still illegal in Wyoming,” he said. “We’ve had a few people who were surprised by that.”

Tom Gorman, director of the Rocky Mountain High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area program, agrees that Colorado’s laws will likely increase the diversion of marijuana to Wyoming. Because it will be more readily available, he predicts subsequent trends will be soon to follow.

He said the price of pot is likely to drop, making it more affordable for potential users. He additionally expects to see the public perception of risk fall along with the prices.

“With Wyoming being a neighboring state, I would suspect you’ll see an increase in marijuana use,” he said.

Casper Defense Attorney Jakob Norman doesn’t necessarily foresee more arrests in the area, but he predicts that more people traveling to Colorado to smoke will result in more indirect consequences.

“With so many Wyomingites traveling to Colorado, I think we’ll see an increase in people getting in trouble for testing hot,” he said. This could affect those who are on probation or who have employers who regularly impose drug tests.

“Those rules don’t change,” he said.

Despite its proximity to tolerance, Wyoming’s laws stand unflinching with nary the suggestion of legislative change. The Wyoming Legislature failed to discuss any reformations this year — for medical marijuana or otherwise — in 2012.

Rep. Tim Stubson, R-Casper, said no legislations are slated to be brought forth in the upcoming session either.

“There have been some conversations, generally about how they deal with marijuana coming over the state line,” he said.

Casper City Councilman Keith Goodenough has been unsuccessfully pushing for marijuana reform for years. He said despite public support — a 2002 poll showed that 65 percent of Wyoming citizens are in favor of allowing medicinal marijuana — he doubts state laws will change much in the upcoming years.

“The law-and-order angle trumps a lot of it. Conservatives are generally very supportive of passing laws enforcing crime,” he said. “Wyoming has always been a conservative place, and existing institutions don’t change very quickly.”

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