godspeed, my friend), there are a few telltale signs. First, look for the live bulls and the yellow Lambos. But if they’ve fallen victim to cost-cutting or newfound modesty, then look for a procession of cream-colored cowboy hats. They belong to a retinue of lobbyists and legislators from Wyoming, preaching the virtues of their state as a mecca for blockchain.
Gregory Barber covers cryptocurrency, blockchain, and artificial intelligence for WIRED.
Wyoming’s transformation into a blockchain booster is somewhat legendary in cryptocurrency circles. Until recently, strict money-transmitter laws meant residents there couldn’t even use a Coinbase account. But over the past two years, Wyoming has enacted 13 blockchain laws, with a raft of other proposals on the way. The question is, what does the country’s least-populous state, far from tech hubs and long associated with an unhealthy dependency on resource extraction, want with blockchain?
“The ethos of blockchain and the ethos of Wyoming are very similar,” says Caitlin Long, cofounder of the Wyoming Blockchain Coalition, a lobbying group responsible for pushing for the crypto-friendly bills, many with a libertarian bent.
Wyoming’s push is a reflection of the nation’s patchwork of state laws, created in the absence of clear federal rules. Some, like New York, favor rigorous regulation. The state’s Bitlicense regime, which began in 2015, involves a strict vetting process for companies that want to deal with New York residents, prompting complaints that it deters innovation. Legislators in Wyoming, as well as neighboring Colorado and Montana, see that as an opening.
“It’s been good for Wyoming that the federal government has been proving its stripes of incompetency,” says Tyler Lindholm, a state representative who, at 6’7″, does much to increase the visibility of the cowboy hats.
Lindholm and Long first partnered on blockchain legislation two years ago. Long, a former executive at Morgan Stanley, became interested when she discovered that state regulations prevented her from donating bitcoin to her alma mater, the University of Wyoming. Lindholm, a longtime cryptocurrency enthusiast, had previously tried to tackle that issue. But his fellow legislators mostly associated cryptocurrency with drug sales and scams. “This was their first blush with crypto—even hearing about it,” Lindholm says. “I got my ass whipped pretty bad.”
Their fortunes improved by casting cryptocurrency as a way to replace flagging state revenue from the coal industry, Long says. Working with lawyers from Consensys, a company that builds and promotes Ethereum applications,