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Election 2020: Mississippi medical marijuana legalization guide

Mississippi’s Initiative 65

Read the full proposal here: Mississippi’s Initiative 65

Mississippi’s Alternative 65A

Read the full proposal here: Mississippi’s Alternative 65A

Medical or adult use?

Medical (both initiatives)

What Initiative 65 would do

Mississippi Initiative 65, put forward by citizen advocates, would allow patients with qualifying conditions to use medical marijuana. This amendment would allow medical marijuana to be provided only by licensed treatment centers (dispensaries), and create a system to permit caregivers to administer cannabis to debilitated individuals. The Mississippi State Department of Health would regulate and enforce the provisions of this amendment.

What Initiative 65A would do

The alternative proposed by Republican state legislators, Initiative 65A, presents a tightly constricted and largely ineffective version of the same initiative. 65A would “restrict smoking marijuana to terminally ill patients; require pharmaceutical-grade marijuana products and treatment oversight by licensed physicians, nurses, and pharmacists.”

The trick in 65A is hidden in the phrase “pharmaceutical-grade marijuana products,” which do not exist within medical marijuana systems. The only pharmaceutical-grade marijuana products are FDA-approved drugs like Epidiolex (CBD) and Dronabinol (THC). Those products are already available to all appropriate patients via prescription. It’s unlikely that any medical cannabis flower or oil would meet 65A’s definition of “pharmaceutical-grade.”

Mississippi House Democrats argue that 65A is “designed to confuse voters by placing a similar initiative on November’s ballot to dilute the vote to legalize medical marijuana. … The sole intention of HCR 39 [65A] is to mislead and confuse voters and kill a measure for which the majority of Mississippians are in favor.”

Initiative 65 sponsors

Initiative 65A sponsors

  • Former Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant (R) opposes Initiative 65, and spearheaded 65A, which would “restrict smoking marijuana to terminally ill patients; require pharmaceutical-grade marijuana products and treatment oversight by licensed physicians, nurses, and pharmacists”
  • Mississippi State Board of Health

What the latest polls say

67% of Mississippians say they support medical marijuana. It’s unclear whether that polling reflects Initiative 65, Initiative 65A, both, or just legal medical marijuana in general. (Jan. 2019, Millsaps College & Chism Strategies poll).

Would dispensaries be licensed?

Yes, by the Mississippi State Department of Health. Dispensaries would be referred to as Treatment Centers.

Would marijuana be taxed?

Possibly. Per Section 6 in Initiative 65: “The department may assess up to the equivalent of the state’s sales tax rate to the final sale of medical marijuana.”

There is no mention of taxation in 65A.

5 things to know about Mississippi’s Initiative 65

  • There are 20 qualifying conditions presented in 65, including PTSD, cancer, glaucoma and epilepsy.
  • Patients will be limited to obtaining or possessing no more than 2.5 ounces of medical marijuana every 14 days.”
  • Homegrow will not be permitted.
  • Initiative 65 requires the state Department of Health to create and make its medical marijuana regulatory program operational by August 15, 2021.
  • In lieu of conventional medical marijuana dispensaries, the state will regulate an undefined number of “treatment centers,” the initiative’s preferred term for dispensaries.
  • Patients will need to renew their state medical marijuana cards annually.

Current cannabis law in Mississippi

Mississippi has decriminalized possession of small amounts of cannabis. A first-offense possession of up to 30 grams of marijuana (a little more than an ounce) is punishable by a $250 fine instead of jail time and a civil summons as opposed to arrest, as long as the offender provides proof of identity and a written promise to appear in court.”

Quotes from advocates of Initiative 65

  • “Medical marijuana is a safe and effective treatment option for a broad range of serious medical conditions and their symptoms, such as chronic pain. More than 2.8 million Americans are using medical marijuana in 34 states, and there is no reason to deny that same option for relief to Mississippians who are in chronic pain or suffer from other symptoms from debilitating medical conditions.” Medical Marijuana 2020 campaign
  • “While medical marijuana is certainly not a cure-all, Mississippians with debilitating medical conditions deserve to have this option available to them. The experiences in 34 other states show that it can be effective, and we believe the benefits of medical marijuana make it a viable treatment option for many in our state who are suffering.” – Mississippi physicians coalition open letter to the Mississippi Board of Health 

Quotes from opponents of Initiative 65

  • “The Mississippi State Board of Health is not supportive of the legalization of [Initiative 65]. It is not FDA approved, it is illegal, and has not undergone a rigorous medical review. Currently, there are no statutes on the book, so we are watching the events as they unfold. – Mississippi State Board of Health Communications Director Liz Sharlot 
  • Initiative 65 “is not a simple medical marijuana program. It is designed to flood the market with marijuana that will lead to the state having recreational marijuana.”  – State Rep. Trey Lamar (R), a proponent of 65A

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Max Savage Levenson

Max Savage Levenson likely has the lowest cannabis tolerance of any writer on the cannabis beat. He also writes about music for Pitchfork, Bandcamp and other bespectacled folk. He co-hosts The Hash podcast. His dream interview is Tyler the Creator.

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