As Wyoming prepares for a massive influx of visitors for the coming eclipse, Colorado’s neighbor to the north welcomes the migration — minus marijuana.
The Wyoming Association of Sheriffs and Chiefs of Police (WASCOP) issued a warning Friday to visitors venturing to the state for the celestial phenomenon: Wyoming’s marijuana laws will be “strictly enforced.”
“We want folks to enjoy the eclipse, take it in, learn from it, but do so safely,” said Byron Oedekoven, executive director of WASCOP.
Law enforcement are anticipating that Wyoming’s 585,000-person population could very well double in a three-to-five-day stretch to view what is being hailed as a historic event on Aug. 21.
“There are no motel rooms to be had in Casper; there’s no space on the tarmac for any more planes,” Oedekoven said. “There’s a lot of people coming to the Cowboy State.”
And given Wyoming is an easy drive from Colorado, which legalized the medical and recreational use of marijuana, WASCOP wants to ensure that those crossing the border know that marijuana use and possession are illegal — even if someone has a medical marijuana card from another state.
“For all intents and purposes, marijuana is still a criminal offense in Wyoming,” Oedekoven said.
Under Wyoming drug laws, marijuana use and possession under 3 ounces are misdemeanor offenses punishable by fines and potential imprisonment of six to 12 months in jail for a first-time offender. Possession of more than 3 ounces is a felony.
WASCOP launched the There is No Debate marijuana community awareness campaign as part of ongoing education-focused efforts to prevent criminal activities in the state, Oedekoven said. Since Colorado legalized adult-use cannabis, Wyoming has seen an increase of marijuana-related incidences, he said.
“We look to be the educator to help deal with the criminal activity of the day,” he said, noting that “criminal activity” includes “tobacco, youth access to alcohol, methamphetamine, domestic violence, pharmaceutical abuse, and now marijuana.”
Wyoming’s services and infrastructure could very well be put under immense strain in a short period of time, so officials say they’re sending an advance warning on marijuana.
“We need everybody to be clearly thinking so that we can minimize the impact to public safety while everybody’s here,” said Rhea Parsons, director of the There is No Debate campaign.