“We’re about to open Pandora’s Box” – Medical Marijuana in Mississippi

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In a few months, voters in Mississippi will have the opportunity to approve or reject the sale of medical marijuana.

When Mississippians go to the polls in November, they will have a choice to vote in favor of or against the sale of medical marijuana.  If a voter chooses to vote in favor of medical marijuana, they will have a choice between two resolutions, referred to as “Initiative-65” and “Initiative-65A”.

“Initiative-65” was created after a group called “Medical Marijuana 2020” received the number of required signatures it needed, and certified the signatures through the Secretary of State’s Office, which officially qualified the initiative to appear on the ballot.

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“Initiative-65A” was created after House Concurrent Resolution 39 passed the Mississippi House of Representatives which proposes to create a new article of the Mississippi Constitution as a legislative alternative to Initiative-65.  At the time of its passage, Speaker of the House Philip Gunn issued the following statement:

“The legislative alternative gives people who are in favor of medical marijuana a responsible pathway to having it. The alternative allows the public to vote for medical marijuana without legalizing recreational marijuana. Anyone who has read the proposed initiative 65 and listened to the debate on the House floor can see that there are tremendous problems with the initiative. It goes way beyond what it has been represented to be and comes extremely close to legalizing recreational marijuana. It does not allow the tax revenue from marijuana sales to be used by the State. It essentially exempts the sale of marijuana from local zoning ordinances. It totally removes the taxing and appropriation authority from the legislative branch and gives it to an executive branch, which is a complete violation of the separation of powers. Ultimately, it is not what most people mean when they say that they are for medical marijuana. Initiative 65 is not good public policy. The alternative passed by the House gives Mississippians the opportunity to vote for a legitimate, reasonable medical marijuana program that would meet the needs of those who could benefit from the program.”

Today, community leaders gathered in Ridgeland to discuss their opposition to Initiative-65.

Representative Jill Ford

State Representative Jill Ford of Madison County said she will vote “nay” for the sale of medical marijuana in Mississippi.  However, Ford said, for those planning to vote in favor of medical marijuana, she strongly encourages a vote in favor of Initiative-65A.

Ford said, “Initiative-65, not to be mistaken with Initiative-65A, is a broadly written document that does not contain sufficient language to establish a legitimate medical marijuana program.  Initiative-65 is silent on the number of medical marijuana treatment centers.  The term “medical marijuana treatment center” is actually misleading as they include growers, harvesters, processors, and sellers of marijuana.”

“Oklahoma did not limit the number of licenses, and they now have more than 3,900 dispensaries in their state.  Four times more than the most populated of California which has full-on legalization. Initiative-65 does not allow cities and counties to adopt zoning regulations for treatment centers, also referred to as “pot shops”.  Having a so-called treatment center/pot shop will diminish property values for everyone”, said Ford.

Ford continued by saying, “Initiative-65 also prohibits our cities and counties from receiving any tax revenue or fees generated by the sale of medical marijuana.  Essentially, our local taxing authorities will have no control over these facilities, nor will they collect any revenue to defray the cost of enforcing this poorly drafted initiative.”

Ford said, “During the recent legislative session, I am proud to say, the Mississippi House of Representatives offered alternative language referred to as Initiative-65A.  This initiative would allow a select number of state-licensed facilities to produce and sell medical marijuana products while observing local zoning ordinances to protect our property values.  The structure of the program will be based on medical principals and administered by an appropriate state agency.”

“Initiative-65A would give people, who are in favor of medical marijuana, a responsible pathway for accessing it.  If you believe Mississippi should allow the use of medical marijuana, I urge you to vote “Yea” for Initiative-65A to maintain our property values and our quality of life”, said Ford.

Ford concluded by saying, “If Initiative-65 passes in November, it would go into effect in July 2021, and that’s not enough time.  We don’t know what tomorrow holds and we sure don’t know what next year holds. Vote “nay” and let us have an opportunity to research this.  This is an illegal drug, it’s not FDA approved, and the risks totally outweigh the benefits.”

Madison County Sheriff Randy Tucker

Madison County Sheriff Randy Tucker also weighed in on Initiative-65.  “I’ve got friends on both sides.  I’m not here to talk about the scientific part of it; I’m not a scientist.  What I will tell you about is the law enforcement side of it.  Marijuana is a Schedule 1 narcotic under the law of the state of Mississippi.  The reason that it is a Schedule 1 narcotic is that the probability is there for it to be highly abused.”

Tucker said, “There is no regulatory oversite on how this is going to dispensed or monitored under Initiative-65.  You’re fixing to tax law enforcement with making decisions without any proper backing or any authority whatsoever.”

“I think everyone is well aware of defunding police departments.  By passing Initiative-65, you better get ready to fund them because you’re looking at an increase in petty crimes, violent crimes, DUI’s, and DUI deaths.  We’re the ones who have to go and notify the parents when a loved one gets killed in an accident”, said Tucker.

Sheriff Tucker cited what has occurred in two other states following the legalization of marijuana.  “Statistics from Colorado and Oregon show an 11 and 18 percent increase, respectively, in the number of DUI’s.  DUI has been traditionally the result of alcohol impairment and now you’re moving into a narcotic impairment.  We have to retrain these guys to become experts in the field of narcotic detection to enforce DUI laws. You’re looking at laws that have been in place for years on the books; selling marijuana within 15-hundred feet of a school, daycare, or a church.  That is a danger to our children.  It makes absolutely no sense.  The initiative as it is written is garbage.”

Tucker continued by saying, “If you want to vote in favor of medical marijuana, I would encourage you to vote for Initiative-65A.  At least we would have some type of guideline in place and some backing to enforce the law and prevent abuse.  You know, the officer is not going to know how someone obtained marijuana on the street.  You can have a card, but you can buy marijuana anywhere in illicit markets.  We have to figure out if it’s legal under that initiative.  Law enforcement is overburdened already.  I can promise you, we are pushed to the limit with manpower, resources, and the backing of the law as it is.”

Tucker said, “We’re about to open Pandora’s Box.  I don’t know about the medical side and I’ve never been presented with any proof that there’s a medical benefit to it.  I know there are pros and cons on both sides.  I’ve been doing this for 30 years, and I’ve yet to see anyone put one piece of evidence, scientifically or medically, in my face that says it is a medically important drug.  Until that time, we’re going to enforce the laws as they are.  I’m asking you to help me prevent an initiative that is not supportive of our community, is not going to be able to be enforced by law enforcement, is going to run rampant, and is a money-making Ponzi scheme for those who have set this up.”

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