Last week in Wyoming, the House Judiciary Committee approved legislation that would change the current criminal penalty regarding marijuana possession to a more reasonable civil charge similar to that of a traffic violation.
The legislation in question, House Bill 29, successfully traversed its first legislative hurdle by a committee vote of 7-2.
Now, the proposed bill will be shipped over to the state’s full House of Representatives for its first reading.
The bill’s champion, Representative James Byrd, says the legislation doesn’t for all intents and purposes decriminalize marijuana possession, but merely changes the offense from that of a criminal issue to a civil matter.
When making his presentation to the House Judiciary Committee, Representative Byrd’s main argument was simply that the current penalties regarding the possession of marijuana don’t fit the crime.
Byrd explained to the panel:
I could fill this room with a bunch of young people who are now felons, and their prospects for life are now just trashed. All the way from 4.0 students who were going to college, to star athletes, to the average kid down the street.
Representative Byrd’s initial proposal included fines of $50 for the first and second offenses for those caught in possession of less than one ounce of marijuana, and $100 for having up to an ounce of pot.
But Representative Mark Baker thought the amount of the fines were too low, so he productively campaigned to have the payments raised to $250 and $500, correspondingly.
Representative Baker said:
I’m not very comfortable with just slapping someone on the wrist with a $50 fine. But I don’t think they should go to jail.
No, they shouldn’t go to jail. Just pay the enormously irrational fine and be on your way, right, Representative Baker?
Well, at least you were half right anyway.
You can show your support for House Bill 29 by reaching out to Wyoming’s Senators and Representatives and ask them to support the original draft of the legislation which reflects Representative Byrd’s initial intentions of implementing fines of only $50 and $100.