President Biden to Pardon Felony Marijuana Possession, Casper Business Owners Respond
On Thursday, President Biden announced his plans to pardon all prior federal offenses of marijuana possession.
The president made this announcement on Twitter, with both a video and a thread of his plans and hopes for the future of marijuana in America.
"First: I’m pardoning all prior federal offenses of simple marijuana possession," he wrote. "There are thousands of people who were previously convicted of simple possession who may be denied employment, housing, or educational opportunities as a result. My pardon will remove this burden."
President Biden also called on state governors to pardon simple state marijuana possession charges.
"Just as no one should be in a federal prison solely for possessing marijuana, no one should be in a local jail or state prison for that reason, either," President Biden wrote.
President Biden also noted that marijuana shares the same classification as heroin, and that it's classified as a more serious drug than fentanyl. He asked both Secretary Becerra and the Attorney General to review how marijuana is scheduled when it comes to federal law.
"I’d also like to note that as federal and state regulations change, we still need important limitations on trafficking, marketing, and underage sales of marijuana," President Biden wrote. "Sending people to jail for possessing marijuana has upended too many lives – for conduct that is legal in many states. That’s before you address the clear racial disparities around prosecution and conviction. Today, we begin to right these wrongs."
By all accounts, it's a big step towards the federal legalization of marijuana and K2 Radio News reached out to the owners of both Platte Hemp Company and The Green Room to find out more about how this decision could affect Wyoming, both economically and in terms of individual livelihoods.
"I think it's great," said Sam Watt, owner of Platte Hemp Company in Casper. "I knew that it was coming down the pike, but I didn't think it'd be this soon. So that tells me that the feds are gonna go legal within a year. Across the country, they'll leave [the legalization of marijuana possession] up to the states to jump in on it or leave it alone and be ignorant, as they were the last 50 years."
Watt said that he has spoken with various Wyoming leaders, many of whom have told him their thoughts on the legalization of marijuana in Wyoming.
"I've spoken to a lot of certain individuals that have power in the Senate and in the House, and they told me that they don't want to make the decision; they want to leave it to the feds and, if the feds do it, they'll go ahead and sign off on it," Watt revealed.
Kobie Waddy, one of the owners of The Green Room in Casper, agrees that Wyoming will, hopefully, legalize marijuana if it's legalized federally.
"If it federally legalizes, Wyoming really has no reason, I believe, not to legalize it, other than their own personal or religious reasons," Waddy stated.
There was a chance that both the decriminalization and the access to medical marijuana could have been put on the 2022 voting ballot, but it did not get enough votes within the Wyoming House to make it onto the ballot. There's a chance it could make it onto the 2024 ballot however and, with President Biden's decision today, the likelihood of it passing is significantly higher.
"With potential decriminalization, and if there's any movement on the Congress level towards it, they might be more inclined to legalize [marijuana in Wyoming] come 2024," Waddy said. "So I definitely believe that within the next few years, it's going to happen, whether it's federal legalization or statewide."
The legalization of marijuana could mean big bucks for Wyoming, according to Watt.
"It's going to be freaking huge," he said. "It's going to open up so many doors. We're starting a glass blowing shop and we've got a lot of people looking to train and learn how to do glass blowing, and that's just one part of the industry. Then you have the retail side, and the farming side, and the attorneys and the CPAs. It all just blows up."
Marijuana tax revenue alone, in neighboring Colorado, has made the state $423,486,053 in 2021, according to the Motley Fool.
"Legalization of cannabis products has been a boon for state budgets, with states reporting a combined total of $10.4 billion in tax revenue from cannabis sales as of the close of 2021, not including any revenue produced by medical marijuana distribution," the website stated. "Local towns and cities with thriving marijuana operations have also generated millions."
The money that marijuana could bring to Wyoming, especially given how much space the state has to create farms, is astronomical.
"It would definitely create tons of jobs, whether that be from dispensary owners providing jobs to employees, or farmers that would be involved," Waddy said. "It's also going to expand what might be imported into the state. If we can increase the hemp industry on top of the cannabis industry the state would really be able to use any of the funds from taxes or any of that to go into the school systems, the streets, road repairs, or anything else that the state might need to get repaired."
Watt agreed, even going so far as to say it's possible that the cannabis/hemp industry could become Wyoming's main economic industry.
"It's gonna open up another industry, and I'm very serious about this, that will be stronger than gas and oil," Watt said. "It will be stronger in Wyoming and it will be more solid, where it's not so up and down, because of the oil prices or whatever. Once marijuana is legalized, you're going to see a huge spike."
But that's later. Whether Wyoming actually legalizes marijuana or not remains to be seen. And while the move today may not impact the states' economy, it does impact thousands of lives that have been impacted because of a marijuana felony possession.
"It's going to increase the amount of freedom people have within the job market because, being charged with something like that, they get stamped for a bad mark and they can't get jobs as easily," Waddy said. "They can do much of anything as easily. This is going to help a lot of people who, like, got tagged for an eighth [ounces of marijuana] and now have the hardest time finding a job, or getting a loan. Now they might be able to get those jobs, or get those loans and be able to find housing that they might not have been able to do before."
The future of marijuana in Wyoming is an unclear one, but Casper business owners, at least those within this industry, believe the President's actions today were a turning point towards the future of marijuana legalization.
K2 Radio News has contacted Governor Gordon's press office seeking a statement on President Biden's announcement. A response has not yet been given but we will update this article with comments from the Governor if he provides them.