Colorado is already under fire from Nebraska and Oklahoma, whose attorneys general have sued this state in federal court over our marijuana laws; Kansas is thinking about joining the suit. But in Wyoming, where state officials say that plenty of Colorado pot winds up, Governor Matt Mead insists he doesn't have our state in his legal crosshairs.
That doesn't mean he's ruled out legal action, though. "I'm a states'-rights guy, and I believe in that," Mead told reporters at the Wyoming Press Association's annual meeting last week. "My position, if we could get there, wouldn't be to sue the state of Colorado. It would be to sue the federal government."
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According to Mead, he ordered Wyoming's attorney general to look at the lawsuit filed late last year by Oklahoma and Nebraska; the AG decided that suing Colorado directly would be futile. Instead, Mead says, the U.S. Department of Justice is to blame for not enforcing federal pot laws in Colorado at the direction of President Barack Obama. "In effect, you are changing the law," Mead told reporters. "And that should be an act of Congress, and not an act of an individual man."
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Law enforcement sources have said that pot arrests in Wyoming have gone up as much as 61 percent since legalized sales of marijuana started in Colorado in January 2014. In Wyoming, Colorado drivers have the highest incidence of out-of-state pot arrests. Some marijuana advocates say those figures are partly due to Wyoming cops profiling people with Colorado plates.
Officials in several other states bordering Colorado agree with Wyoming's stance and say it's unlikely that they'll take direct action against Colorado. Utah governor Gary Herbert said earlier this month he has no plans to sue Colorado. New Mexico leaders have also said they aren't ready to go after their neighbor to the north over pot.
Currently in Wyoming, marijuana possession of three ounces or less is a misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in jail and $1,000 in fines. Get caught with more than three ounces and you're facing felony charges that carry up to five years in jail and $10,000 in fines -- and a sales or distribution conviction could result in a decade of prison and $10,000 in fines. Wyoming state representative Jim Byrd has introduced legislation this session that would make possession of one ounce or less punishable by fines ranging from $50 to $100 for first- and second-time offenders. Get caught a third time and you could still face jail time, as well as mandatory counseling. Byrd's bill would also decrease penalties for those caught with one to three ounces.