State leaders in Mississippi are urging voters to carefully consider two medical marijuana measures on the November ballot, characterizing the less restrictive of the two proposals as dangerous. Republican state Rep. Jill Ford, Ed Langton, the chairman of the Mississippi Board of Health, and Madison County Sheriff Randy Tucker said that Initiative 65, which was placed on the general election ballot via a citizen petition, would lead to an increase in drug abuse and allow cannabis dispensaries to open near schools and churches.
If passed, Initiative 65 would amend the state constitution to allow doctors to recommend cannabis as a treatment for patients with one or more of 20 qualifying serious medical conditions. The state health department would issue identification cards to patients that would allow them to obtain up to five ounces of cannabis from a licensed treatment center per month. Medical marijuana sales would be taxed at the standard sales tax rate of 7%.
‘Overburdened’ Sheriff Offers Weak Excuse To Continue Prohibition
At a Monday press briefing, Tucker maintained that legalizing medical marijuana would somehow impose a greater burden on law enforcement than prohibition.
“Law enforcement is overburdened already. I can promise you, we are pushed to the limit with the manpower, resources, and the backing of the law as it is. We are fixed to open Pandora’s box,” he said, adding that he believes that there is no such thing as medical marijuana.
“I’ve been doing this for 30 years and protecting this very community for that number of years, and I have yet to see anybody put one piece of evidence scientifically or medically in my face that says it is a medically approved drug,” Tucker said.
Langton said that there has not been enough research to prove that cannabis can be used medicinally safely.
“To call it medical marijuana, medical ice cream, whatever you put the word medical before, it doesn’t necessarily make it medical unless it is truly a medical product,” he said.
Instead of approving Initiative 65, the three state leaders said that medical marijuana supporters should vote for Alternative 65A, a more restrictive measure put on the ballot by the Mississippi legislature in response to Initiative 65. The proposal would only allow terminal patients to use cannabis flower, while those with other illnesses would be permitted access to cannabis oils and other formulations. Short on details, 65A would allow the legislature to enact possession limits, tax rates, and other regulations to implement the measure.
“65A would give people who are in favor of medical marijuana a responsible pathway for accessing it,” said Ford.
Cannabis Activists Deem Alternate Measure ‘Inadequate’
But Jamie Grantham of Mississippians for Compassionate Care, the group campaigning for Initiative 65, said that the legislature has rejected more than 20 bills that would have legalized the medicinal use of cannabis and that the alternate measure is an attempt by lawmakers “to confuse voters and deny them a fair up or down vote.”
“The language of Alternative 65A is inadequate and fails to include basic components necessary to establish a medical marijuana program that will help patients – it does not specify any framework for a functioning medical marijuana program, a timeline for implementation, a specific list of qualifying medical conditions, nor does it even provide constitutional protections for patients, caregivers, or doctors,” Grantham said on Monday.
Mississippi voters will see both Initiative 65 and Alternate 65A on the ballot when they go to the polls for the general election on November 3.