Gov. Matt Mead creates council to assess marijuana in Wyoming ahead of legalization push



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CHEYENNE, Wyoming — Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead is creating a council to gauge the effects of marijuana usage in the state ahead of a push for a legalization initiative that could put the issue before voters next year.

Mead announced Tuesday he's putting together a marijuana impact assessment council. He wants it to report to the public on effects of marijuana — including health issues, law enforcement concerns and costs — before the Wyoming Legislature convenes early next year.

Activists this spring filed initial paperwork to start a petition process in Wyoming that could put a medical marijuana legalization measure before voters in the 2016 general election. The Wyoming chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws is sponsoring the effort.

Wyoming law would require organizers to get the signatures of 15 percent of those who voted in the 2014 election in order to force the issue before voters as a ballot initiative. More than 25,000 valid signatures would be required.

The Wyoming Legislature this year shot down a medical marijuana bill, and Mead, a former federal prosecutor, long has been clear that he opposes marijuana legalization. Even so, Mead said Wyoming needs to assess the effect of the recent legalization of recreational marijuana in Colorado and Washington and the broader legalization of medical marijuana in several other states.

The council will include members representing the governor's office, the state health department, budget officials and the Governor's Council on Impaired Driving.

"We recognize that whatever laws we have in Wyoming, whether they change or not, we still know that we're impacted by other states and the laws that they have," Mead said.

Mead said he doesn't believe that Wyoming is likely to legalize marijuana next year. "But I do think that there is a big push by folks who want to see it legalized to have this ballot initiative," he said. "And for all our citizens who may share my view on legalization being against it, I think that we need to gather as much data as we can."

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