By Jim Stanford on January 23, 2014
Earlier this week, the town council invited state lawmakers and county commissioners for a discussion on the upcoming legislative session.
Sen. Leland Christensen and Reps. Ruth Ann Petroff and Keith Gingery talked about bills they plan to work on and issues such as state funding for local government. The latter is nuanced and not very sexy but important for how the town and county provide services.
At the end, we addressed a topic a little more tangible: a pair of bills that would legalize or decriminalize marijuana. The first, to be sponsored by Rep. Sue Wallis, a Campbell County Republican, would permit medicinal or even recreational use, while the second, authored by Rep. James Byrd, a Democrat from Laramie, would lower the penalty for possessing small amounts to $50 or $100.
That I support such measures is hardly a surprise. But what raised eyebrows was when 81-year-old Councilman Bob Lenz, a retired pharmacist, emphatically weighed in.
“Just legalize it and tax it and control it,” Lenz said. “I think you save a lot of problems … I’ve never had a joint in my life, but [from] everything they tell me, everybody smokes it.”
Skip ahead to the 61:30 mark. The marijuana discussion lasts about 6 minutes.
When our reps were asked where they stood, Rep. Petroff responded unequivocally, in words that will bring a smile to Capt. Bob Morris. “I am not in favor of Prohibition,” she said.
(To be clear: I have spoken with Bob Lenz several times about this issue, and while he is a strong proponent of legalization as a matter of policy, he does not advocate that people use marijuana. Chronic use lowers IQ, he says, and smoking obviously causes other health problems.)
I’d be surprised if either bill passes the Legislature this session, but the House has a libertarian streak and might be swayed to advance the idea. Once states begin to see how much money is at stake, with tens of millions in new tax revenue in Colorado and Washington, change will come quickly. And as Lenz says, at least we’re having the conversation.
Other topics of interest from the meeting: Grand Teton National Park land transfer (1:30), local government funding (10:00), no levying of property tax in Jackson (23:30), small breweries (52:00) and electronic privacy (53:45).
As of Nov. 18, all council meetings are broadcast on video and archived at townofjackson.com/live. Anyone may share or embed links.
Update 1/28: Rep. Wallis died this morning at age 56.