With its small population and large landmass, Wyoming poses unique logistical challenges when it comes to gathering signatures on a marijuana petition.
But those challenges haven’t dissuaded Chris Christian, executive director of the Wyoming arm of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, or NORML.
For two weeks now, Christian and nearly 300 others across the state have been working to spread a petition to get legalization of medical marijuana on the November 2016 ballot. To do so, they must collect 25,673 signatures from registered voters and have them turned in and verified by Feb. 8.
But for Christian, that number is not the end goal, but the beginning.
“We know we’re not going to get them all (verified), and that’s why we’re going to double the number of signatures we need,” she said.
To that end, she and other supporters of marijuana legalization have been canvassing every corner of the state, with at least one circulator in each of Wyoming’s 23 counties setting up tables at events and outside businesses to garner interest.
In Cheyenne, for example, circulators have frequently set up outside some of the retailers on Lincolnway, waving signs and shouting encouragement at passing vehicles.
“We have about 35 circulators in Casper, and they’re doing the same thing there, having little rallies,” Christian said. “Whatever’s happening in and around Casper, they’re there with their clipboards and their T-shirts. We’ve found all we have to do to get signatures is to go somewhere in our T-shirts, and people ask us to (let them) sign.”
Christian said it’s hard to know exactly how many signatures have been collected these first two weeks, but she estimates the number is closing in on 1,000.
And as the drive has gained momentum, Christian said she’s seeing support from a wide spectrum of Wyoming’s populace.
But she’s also seeing a lot of younger people who aren’t registered to vote, as well as convicted felons who can’t vote. Both pose major roadblocks to a successful campaign, and Christian said she has done what she can to inform such supporters how they can register or petition to have their voting rights restored.
Yet despite the challenges, Christian said she’s as hopeful as ever that, come next November, Wyomingites will have their say on the future of marijuana in the Cowboy State.
And if that does happen, she said, it won’t be because of stereotypical “stoners,” but rather because more people are beginning to see marijuana as a legitimate medicine.
“I would say over half of the people who’ve signed this petition aren’t users,” she said. “But they may know someone who could benefit from it. They’ll say, ‘I don’t use it, but I don’t see why it should be illegal.'”
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