Emma Marsing, [email protected]
ROCK SPRINGS, WYOMING — With talks on the horizon throughout various city councils in the state of Wyoming, the Rock Springs City Council began their discussion on what decriminalization within the city would look like along with the benefits and the consequences.
City of Cheyenne Votes in Favor
Earlier last month, the Cheyenne City Council officially voted in favor of delegalizing marijuana, therefore leading other towns to take action and begin discussions on their stance. Due to Cheyenne taking this stance, the Wyoming Association of Municipalities (WAM) decided to get feedback from the rest of the towns under their jurisdiction and present that information at the next legislative conference.
Rock Springs Mayor Max Mickelson explained that Rock Springs is currently the only town not under WAM due to various reasons. Due to this factor, the only way for the City of Rock Spring’s voice to be heard is for the council to discuss it and present the letter to legislators regarding their stance.
Thoughts from RSPD
To kick off the discussion, Councilman Larry Hickerson turned it over to Rock Springs Police Chief Bill Erspamer for his thoughts from a law enforcement standpoint. Chief Erspamer began by stating, “On the surface, I think it’s natural for law enforcement to be hesitant on any sort of decriminalization or legalization conversations. But I don’t know even where this conversation is headed, so I don’t know if we’re talking medical use of marijuana or if we’re just completely decriminalizing. I don’t know where we’re heading. I think for me to take a hard stance that I am against it would be the wrong approach.”
Chief Erspamer noted that he has been in talks with the Wyoming Association of Sheriffs Association regarding their stance and what they recommend. It was stated that many law enforcement agencies want to take an educational standpoint on this matter. With that being said, Chief Erspamer offered the council various educational resources so they could make their own informed decisions. Councilman Bettolo was the first to speak behind that offer. He stated that he thought it would be a great idea for the council to look at statistics and other related facts behind marijuana itself as well as decriminalizing it. Mayor Max Mickelson also asked to be given information related to mental health with the use of the substance as well.
Legalization vs. Decriminalization
The main focus is the difference between legalization and decriminalization. While marijuana would remain illegal, decriminalizing the substance would take all potential felony charges, jail time, or fines off the table.
Councilor Robinson explained that one of the reasons he is in favor of decriminalizing marijuana is looking at those who have misdemeanor or felony charges currently on their record due to it. “I think that the criminal penalties for marijuana are maybe outweighed by, you know, the benefits of somebody maybe not having these charges, you know, on their record later on down in life.”
Due to the effects that a charge or even usage of the substance can have, many employers have strict policies regarding that. Chief Erspamer explained that to be employed at the Rock Springs Police Department, a potential officer must not have used marijuana within at least three years.
Each city within the state does not have official authority to decriminalize marijuana, those laws must be passed within state legislation. However, the Rock Springs Council did decide to have further discussions regarding their stance with the addition of public feedback.