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Medical Marijuana Measure Approved for Mississippi’s November Ballot

by Sarah Cawthon January 15, 2020

Mississippi is the latest state to officially qualify a measure that would legalize medical marijuana for the November 2020 ballot.

The Mississippi Medical Marijuana Amendment was put forth by Mississippians for Compassionate Care with the intention of ensuring the availability of and safe access to medical marijuana for qualified persons suffering from debilitating medical conditions. The measure lists 22 qualifying conditions, including cancer, chronic pain and post-traumatic stress disorder. Each patient would be allowed to possess up to 2.5 ounces of cannabis per 14-day period.

“This is all about patients,” said Jamie Grantham, communications director for the ballot effort. “There’s no reason why patients who are suffering in Mississippi shouldn’t have the same access to medical marijuana as patients in 34 other states.”

The group had amassed more than 214,000 signatures when the initiative was submitted to the secretary of state’s office in September 2019. Of the signatures submitted, a total of 105,686 were certified, which far exceeded the 86,185 signatures required by Mississippi law for an initiative to qualify for the ballot.

If this measure is approved, Mississippi would implement a vertically integrated license, known as a medical marijuana treatment center license, that would allow for the cultivation, processing and dispensing of medical marijuana products. State regulators would be required to license centers by August 15, 2021.

Additionally, there would be no limits to the number of medical marijuana treatment centers and local zoning would be no more restrictive than it is for licensed pharmacies. The Department of Health would regulate the program, including the treatment centers that would sell medical marijuana. More details regarding licenses will be released once the measure has passed.

Polls have shown that 77 percent of Mississippians across demographics support legalizing medical marijuana.

However, Gov. Phil Bryant and others, including the Mississippi State Board of Health and select law enforcement leaders unanimously passed a resolution opposing the initiative on January 6, 2020. Their reasoning, according to a letter issued by the board, lies in what they say is a lack of scientific evidence of marijuana’s treatment benefits outweighing risks that would arise if medical legalization led to recreational legalization.

The board expressed concern that there is "much we don't know about marijuana" and how the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has only signed off, so far, on several drugs derived from certain components of marijuana, and designed to treat epilepsy and other conditions.  

Now, lawmakers have until May 2020 to approve, reject or amend the proposal.

However, even if the measure is rejected by the legislature, it will still appear on the ballot. If lawmakers choose to amend it, both the original and amended versions will appear on the ballot. If both versions receive majority support in November, the one that receives the most votes will win out.

Mississippians for Compassionate Care recently countered in a Facebook post saying, “medical professionals, law enforcement officers, leaders in the faith community and war veterans who believe that medical marijuana will be a beneficial treatment option to patients in Mississippi.”

However, regardless of what lawmakers decide, the issue of legalizing medical marijuana in the state will ultimately be decided by Mississippi voters this November.

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