Throughout the West, states are legalizing marijuana. Colorado was first, allowing recreational use of the drug nearly a decade ago. Montana and New Mexico have since followed suit, as have Nevada, Arizona and the West Coast states. Voters in the Dakotas backed measures making it legal to possess marijuana for medicinal purposes, as did lawmakers in Utah. Only in Idaho and Wyoming has marijuana possession remained illegal in all forms.
This isn’t a pitch for legalization. The fact that many other states have chosen that route doesn’t necessarily mean that Wyoming should follow suit. But it does suggest that state leaders here would be wise to study the issue, especially at a time when laws — and attitudes toward the drug — are only expected to relax further.
There are multiple reasons why it makes sense for the Legislature to learn more about what legalization would mean for the state. The first is obvious: Support for decriminalizing marijuana in Wyoming has grown dramatically over the past decade. In 2012, only 37% of Wyoming residents supported allowing adults to possess marijuana for personal use. By the end of last year, that number had grown to 54%, according to a University of Wyoming survey.
Moreover, an overwhelmingly majority of Wyomingites — 85% — support medicinal use of marijuana, according to the same UW survey. And three in four Wyomingites oppose punishing people with jail time for possessing small amounts of the drug.
The fact that so many of their constituents want marijuana laws loosened should spur lawmakers to action. But so should the haphazard nature of legalization in the region. Already, there are Wyomingites who work in neighboring states where marijuana is legal, only to return home in the evenings to a place where they could be jailed for possession. And it’s possible that even