Mississippi Making Moves!
Medical Marijuana Finally Makes it to the Ballot in the Deep South in 2020
There are currently two different ballot initiatives for medical marijuana that will be voted on in November 2020. The original, Initiative 65 put into motion by the Medical Marijuana 2020 campaign, and the alternate, Alternate 65A, put into motion by the Mississippi State Legislature as their response to Initiative 65. Having competing initiatives could be a good or bad thing depending on how you look at the potential outcomes. This blog will break down the two initiatives, how to vote, and the benefits of a marijuana program for the state and the people.
Initiative 65 will allow medical patients ailed with any of the more than 20 specified qualifying medical conditions to have access to medical marijuana for treatment. Patients must obtain a certification from a physician in order to qualify. It also allows patients to possess up to 2.5 ounces as well as providing protections to recommending physicians and marijuana businesses. The state licensed treatment centers would be the only facilities that would be allowed to cultivate or produce approved marijuana products for patients. Medical Marijuana 2020 submitted 214,000 signatures, 105,686 of which were valid, to have Initiative 65 added to the ballot. Only 86,185 valid signatures were required. This shows a strong approval of medical marijuana by Mississipians!
Alternate 65A “is proposed as a legislative alternative measure to Initiative Measure 65 and would establish a program to allow the medical use of marijuana products by qualified persons with debilitating medical conditions.” As vague as that sounds, the main differences are that Alternate 65A does not specify any qualifying conditions for patients but only allows smoking of marijuana to terminally ill patients, no set possession limits, or a tax rate for the program. These details would be set by the Mississippi state legislature. The vagueness of the program outline set by Alternate 65A leaves many open-ended questions for voters and legislators.
Having both ballot initiatives could be a good thing because it finally gives voters a chance to vote for a medical marijuana program after more than 20 failed attempts by campaigns to include medical marijuana initiatives. Alternatively, having two initiatives on the ballot could confuse voters and lead more people to vote against due to lack of understanding and confidence in the programs.
Voting: It Can Be Confusing
This voting process for these particular initiatives is an “either measure” vote or a “neither measure” vote.
“Either measure” vote means the voter would like for one of the two initiatives to pass. Voting “FOR APPROVAL” on the first related question on the ballot means “I support the idea, in general.” It also means there is a follow up question on the ballot which asks the voter to choose which initiative they support — Amendment 65 or 65A. A selection is required for their ballot to be counted as valid.
“Neither measure” vote means the voter is against both initiatives and does not require the voter to vote for the specific initiative for their ballot to be counted as valid.
Take a look at this sample ballot to get a better idea of how this process works at the polls.
Benefits of a Medical Marijuana Program
Increased Tax Revenue
Mississippi has ranked as the highest poverty rate for quite a number of years. From 2014 to now, the state of Colorado has collected $1,375,145,032 in revenue from the marijuana market. Even though a new program will not have the same numbers in the beginning, even a fourth of this revenue boost could be huge to help Mississippians.
Mississippi has lingered approximately 2% above the national unemployment rate average. The creation of a marijuana market would provide many jobs within state-licensed facilities to produce and distribute product, non-plant-touching ancillary products and services, as well as professional services such as law, finance, and real estate.
Access to Patients
Not everyone wants to use or only use opioids and traditionally prescribed medicines for their ailments. These patients deserve the right to have access to choose a medicinal regimen that helps them cope with their illness the way they deem necessary.
These benefits alone, which are only scratching the surface, would be able to combat many of the issues Mississippi has as far as helping the state give back to its people. And obviously, as the program grows so will all of the benefits!
Mississippi is on the right track! Even though there are two competing initiatives, at least there are medical marijuana initiatives that made it onto the ballot for November 2020!