“DO NOT BRING YOUR COLORADO PURCHASED MARIJUANA INTO WYOMING,” the Wyoming Highway Patrol warned shortly after recreational marijuana sales became legal under Colorado law on January 1. Yet their full statement offers a rather perverse incentive to Wyoming residents who take a field trip to Colorado in order to buy pot: If you’re driving home and about to cross the border with a joint in your pocket, you’ll face less jail time if you smoke it before you cross into Wyoming:
Individuals who have in their possession 3 ounces or less may be charged with a misdemeanor violation that carries a penalty of imprisonment for not more than 12 months, a fine of not more than $1,000.00 or a combination of both.
If found with an amount of marijuana over 3 ounces an individual will be charged with a felony which can result in imprisonment for not more than 5 years and/or a fine of not more than $10,000.00.
Just like alcohol, it is unlawful to drive a motor vehicle while under the influence of a controlled substance. A conviction of driving while under the influence of a controlled substance can get you imprisonment for not more than 6 months and/or a fine of not more than $750.00.
Admittedly, the actual sentences doled out by judges are typically governed by a wide range of factors such as sentencing guidelines, the particular circumstances of the crime and, often, the individual discretion of the sentencing judge. So the fact that one criminal defendant faces a higher maximum sentence than other does not mean that they will necessarily be sentenced to more jail time.
But a lay reader confronted by the Wyoming Highway Patrol’s statement can hardly be expected to understand the nuances of sentencing law. The message conveyed by Wyoming’s law is that people who soberly and safely carry a small amount of marijuana to be smoked in the quiet of their homes are more dangerous criminals than people who drive while high.