Not one, but two medical marijuana initiatives are set to appear on the ballot this November in Mississippi.
Initiatives 65 and 65A would amend Mississippi’s state constitution to allow patients with certain qualifying conditions to access medical marijuana after having been approved by a licensed physician.
The process of getting these amendments on the ballot began in September 2019, when the Medical Marijuana 2020 campaign submitted 214,000 signatures collected from local Mississippians in support of the initiative. In order for an initiated constitutional amendment to make it to the ballot in The Magnolia State, sponsors are required to garner signatures equal to 12 percent of the total votes in the previous year’s gubernatorial race. For 2020, the number required was 86,185.
When voters show up to the polls in November, they will face a two-part question. First, they will be asked to vote for “either measure” if they support either initiative 65 or 65A, or “neither measure” if they want neither measure to pass.
Regardless of the answer to the first question, voters will then be asked which of the two initiatives they prefer. If the “either measure” gets the most votes, then the version of the initiative that received majority support will be enacted.
The Differences Between 65 and 65A
Initiative 65 contains much more specific language regarding the stipulations around who can use medical marijuana, and how much they can possess at a time, than its alternative 65A.
Under initiative 65 there are 22 specified conditions that could qualify a patient for access to medical marijuana including cancer, epilepsy, PTSD, HIV, and more. Patients would be allowed to possess 2.5 ounces at a time, and would be prohibited from smoking cannabis in public spaces. Medical marijuana sales would be taxed at the state’s current sales tax rate of 7 percent, and the costs of a medical marijuana patient ID card would be capped at $50.
In contrast, Initiative 65A makes no specifications for qualifying conditions, tax rates, possession limits, restricts medical marijuana usage only to “terminally ill patients,” and would require medical marijuana treatments to be overseen by a physician. Because of the vagueness of the language in 65A, many of these details would need to be decided by the state legislature. House Democrats have made the argument 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.”
State Representative Joel Bomgar (R) has come out in support of the initiative saying, “legalizing medical marijuana just makes sense.”
Representative Bomgar is quoted saying:
“Almost everybody seems to know somebody who could have benefited from medical marijuana or who lives in another state and did benefit from medical marijuana. When you have almost everybody in Mississippi that knows somebody, has an experience, or knows someone in another state, it just starts to make no sense to anyone that 33 states allow medical marijuana and Mississippi is one of 17 that does not.”
Opposition to Initiative 65
Jackson County Sheriff Mike Ezell is worried that legalized medical marijuana would make more work for the officers in his department. Ezell said, “The sheriff’s office now answers between 26 and 2,800 calls a month. You add marijuana to this mix and, you know the teenagers and young adults, they’re gonna get it. It’s just like we talked about earlier with the brownies and the gummies and all the things they bring back from Colorado. We’ve made a number of arrests since I’ve been in office.”
Member of the Mississippi State Department of Health’s board of directors, Edward Langton, doesn’t believe Initiative 65 is the right way to bring medical marijuana to his state and is skeptical of its proponents. “Wealthy millionaires are trying to establish a new industry, a cartel in Mississippi for marijuana. That’s basically what it boils down to. When people spend $3 million, you can’t say they woke up that morning to be compassionate and provide something medical for people, to make them better.” Langton said.
A Missouri man suffering from stage-four (IV) pancreatic cancer endured a police raid on his hospital room Thursday, as officers searched his belongings for cannabis.
As far as Nolan Sousley was concerned, he was about to have his best night of rest in recent memory because he could go to sleep knowing he was surrounded by medical professionals that could save his life if his health took a turn for the worse while he was asleep. As the Catalina Wine Mixer scene from the movie Step Brothers played in the background, law enforcement officers entered the safe space of Sousley’s hospital room just as he was about to get some sleep.
Sousley was diagnosed with stage IV pancreatic cancer in May of 2018. By the time his condition was diagnosed, it had already spread to his liver, qualifying his cancer as stage IV.
Cancer can be categorized as any stage between zero (0) and four (IV). Cancer categorized as stage zero has not spread from the location in the body where it originated. Stage zero cancer is often considered to be highly curable because it has not spread. By the time cancer is categorized as stage four, it means that it has spread to the organs or other parts of the body. Patients suffering from stage four cancer are fighting for their lives.
Police officers from the Bolivar Police Department in Missouri received a call from the hospital’s security guard on March 7 complaining that Sousley’s room smelled like marijuana. Sousley had already been admitted to the hospital for two days.
According to Sousley and his girlfriend and caregiver Amber Kidwell, the hospital security guard had entered their room earlier in the evening on Thursday, March 7, to ask if they were smoking marijuana inside. Sousley denied the allegations, and the next thing they knew, there were three law enforcement officers in the hospital room searching their belongings.
When police arrived to begin the search, Sousley admitted to officers that he had swallowed capsules containing tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) oil earlier in the evening when he was downstairs and outside of the hospital.
Sousley explained that he did not have any more of the THC pills with him in the hospital. Even though Missourians voted to legalize medical cannabis four months earlier, Sousley had been careful to keep it outside and not bring it inside the hospital’s private property.
Sousley began recording the scene with his mobile phone shortly after the officers arrived.
There were at least three Bolivar police officers in the room for the search, and some criticize that they should have been on the streets protecting the community from dangerous criminals instead of inside the hospital room of a sick Missourian searching for a plant that was recently legalized in the state.
The video begins with the three police officers in the room. One officer is riffling through a bag, and the situation quickly becomes tense. Sousley begins speaking with one of the officers in the room who is not actively searching any of the belongings.
“Here they are. I had some capsules that had some THC oil in them,” Sousley said to the officers quite early on in the recording. “I took them outside on the parking lot.”
Sousley’s friend who in the hospital room with him at the time, Tim Roberts, begins explaining to the police that Sousley uses THC oil pills to treat the debilitating symptoms of stage four cancer and chemotherapy like pain, extreme weight loss from a loss of appetite, and nausea.
As Roberts is calmly explaining the facts to the officer, Sousley interrupts to say, “I’m going to get arrested. They already told me I’m going to get arrested.”
“If we find marijuana, we will give you a citation,” responded the Bolivar police officer, clarifying the extent of the situation. “We’re not taking you down to the county jail. But we haven’t found marijuana, so we’re not citing.”
“Why are you digging in this stuff?” Sousley asked continuing to be disgruntled. “I told you where I took it.”
To which the officer replied, “Because we got a call.”
Sousley admits that he was up front with all of his doctors and hospital staff about his use of cannabis. Like many other cancer patients, he chooses to take THC oil instead of the opioids he is prescribed.
As the search continues during the video, Sousley gets more upset. “I want to know why it’s a big deal if it is really legal in Missouri now?” he asked. “Medically in Missouri it is really legal now. They just haven’t finished the paperwork.”
“Okay well then it’s still illegal,” the officer replied.
“But I don’t have time to wait for that, man” Sousley said. “What would you do? Tell me what you’d do.”
“I’m not in that situation, so I’m not playing the what if game,” said the officer.
“You’ve never said you’d do anything to save your life?” Sously continued. “What if you had 5 kids?”
Before the officer can formulate a response to Sousley questions, Roberts interjects. “It’s not worth the argument right now. Do your jobs,” he said. “We’re not going to have the debate. Hush up.”
The silence doesn’t last long before Sousley starts speaking again.
“It’s my right to live. We’re Americans,” he said. “I was born here. It’s my right to live.”
Seconds later, a doctor enters the room. One officer explains to the doctor, “We got a call saying they could smell marijuana when they walked in the room.”
“There is no way they could smell it. I don’t smoke it. I don’t ever use a ground up plant,” insisted Sousley. “It’s an oil that i use in a capsule, so there is no smoking it. I take it like a pill.”
The physician then calmly asks the officers, “Do you guys have probable cause to search his stuff? Do you have the right to search his stuff, or do you need a warrant for that?”
“We have the right,” said the officer. “It’s on private property.”
“Alright so what’s the proceeding here?” the doctor asked the officer. “He needs to be here. If you take him, it would be problematic.”
“We’re just here because they called saying they smelled marijuana in the room,” the officer explained. “We’re trying to either find yes there is marijuana or there is no marijuana. And if we find it, we’ll cite it. We’ll leave and give him a citation.”
Once officers finished searching all of the bags in the room except for one, they asked to search the one remaining bag that Sousley was keeping behind him and refusing to subject to a search. In the video, Sousley insists that he already showed the officers the empty plastic bag that had contained the THC capsules before he swallowed them in the parking lot, but he was refusing to let them search the duffel bag that held the plastic bag of THC oil capsules.
“If we could just search it and declare there is no marijuana in it,” bargains the officer. Meanwhile, the physician in the room is attempting to calm the situation by asking the officers if they could just take the bags and leave the room to continue the search.
Sousley was sensitive about letting the officers search his personal bag. “It is my bag of medication. It has my final day things in there, and nobody is going to dig in it,” he said. “It’s my stuff. My final hour stuff is in that bag, and it’s my right to have it and i’m not digging it out here in front of anybody.”
In the end, Sousley did agree to let the officer he like the most search his personal bag after the other officers stepped outside the room.
No cannabis was found in Sousley’s room, and officers departed without issuing a citation for possession.
To follow up with those who responded to the video, Sousley and Kidwell posted another video on the tribe’s Facebook page.
What went wrong?
Voters in Missouri approved Amendment 2 in November of 2018, effectively legalizing the medicinal use of cannabis in the Show Me State. The measure passed with a 66 percent majority vote.
Once a legalization amendment is approved, it doesn’t help patients out right away. It takes time for the program to get up and running. It can take months or even years for the state to establish regulations and issue licenses to medical cannabis businesses.
It is often years after legalization before patients have safe, reliable access to medication. This is where the system is flawed. In the interim between voting to legalize and implementing the retail system, patients are forced to wait and suffer. They have to live in fear that they could be arrested, ticketed, or fined for possessing a plant that is their medication.
Patients in Missouri are not expected to have access to medical cannabis until 2020.
While some criticize the police officers for having performed the search after responding to the call, the real problem is the implementation of the system.
What do you think about this situation? Should the officers have followed through with the search of Nolan’s hospital room? Tell us in the comments.
Nolan’s Tribe of Warriors Against Cancer
Sousley was not available for comment when we reached out to him, but he did comment on his YouTube page:
“Thank you too everyone. I still don’t know my rights. I am home from hospital. Loving all the comments, care, and concern. But mainly love for mankind. I have missed that the last what? Twenty years? Thirty years? Been a long time since we were civil. Love you all my fellow human beings. Let’s fight. Let’s win. #terminallivesmatter,” Nolan commented on the video he uploaded to YouTube.com.
Both Nolan and his girlfriend and caregiver Amber have had to take days off from work as a result of Nolan’s health issues. Theystarted a Go Fund Me page to try to raise funds to help them during this difficult time.
Missouri Medical Cannabis Law
Missourians voted to legalize medical cannabis in November 2018. The new law dictates that patients who qualify for the program are legally allowed to possess and use cannabis for medical purposes.
Once the program is up and running, state-licensed physicians will have the right to recommend cannabis to any patient suffering from any condition that they think could benefit from cannabinoid medication. Unlike most other medical states, there is no list of qualifying conditions in Missouri. Medical cannabis recommendations are up to the discretion of the state-licensed physician.
Once a patient receives a recommendation from a doctor, he or she will receive a medical cannabis patient identification card which will allow the patient to purchase up to four ounces of dried cannabis flower or other products from a dispensary each month.
The state is responsible for issuing business licenses to cultivators, manufacturers, testing facilities, and retailers. Patients and their registered caregivers are also permitted to cultivate up to six of their own cannabis plants at home.
A new study has discovered that cannabinoids can help achieve better results when treating cancer, combined with a chemotherapy treatment.
There have been some studies conducted on cannabis’ ability to treat cancer, and cannabis is often used to alleviate the symptoms of cancer treatment therapies. But this study suggests that adding a cannabinoid treatment may allow doctors to use less chemotherapy drugs during treatment, minimizing the harmful side effects.
The study conducted at St. George’s University in London focused on leukemia, a type of cancer that destroys red blood cells. Dr. Wai Lu, the lead author of the study, said,
“We have shown for the first time that the order in which cannabinoids and chemotherapy are used is crucial in determining the overall effectiveness of this treatment.”
The report, which was published in the International Journal of Oncology, described the “anticancer activity” when cannabinoids are the sole treatment being administered. Researchers were curious about how cannabinoids interact with chemotherapy when administered before and after treatment, as well as different combinations of cannabinoids.
It revealed that taking cannabis before chemotherapy had a completely different effect than when taken afterwards. When paired with cytarabine and vincristine, two widely-used chemotherapy drugs that treat leukemia, cannabinoids helped kill more cancerous red blood cells after chemotherapy was administered. But it had an adverse effect when taken before chemotherapy.
“Studies such as ours serve to establish the best ways that they should be used to maximize a therapeutic effect,” explained Liu.
Although this was not a clinical trial involving leukemia patients, research on the cellular level is critical before studies can be carried out with human subjects. The authors of the study admit more research is needed to definitively support their results.
The cannabinoids were not administered through smoking whole-plant cannabis, and researchers warn that unregulated cannabis could have an adverse effect on a patient’s health. “These extracts are highly concentrated and purified, so smoking marijuana will not have a similar effect,” said Liu.
This study’s results are in line with previous research that supports a multi-cannabinoid approach to treating cancer. In 1974, researchers began looking into cannabis to treat cancer, and found that it did in fact shrink tumors in the majority of patients. But further research was restricted by the DEA. Liu himself conducted a similar study in 2013 that examined several cannabinoids, aside from THC, and it propelled his work towards the more recent study, “There’s quite a lot of cancers that should respond quite nicely to these cannabis agents,” he said in 2013.
Statistically, about 38.5% of Americans will develop some sort of cancer within their lifetime, according to the National Institute of Health. Newer treatment therapies focus on maximizing the effectiveness of chemotherapy and radiation to target cancer rather than harm the immune system, but these therapies can still be destructive. While cancer organizations still caution patients on using cannabis without strong clinical research, Liu is encouraged by the results of this study. “…cannabinoids are a very exciting prospect in oncology, and studies such as ours serve to establish the best ways that they should be used to maximise a therapeutic effect,” he said.
For quite some time now, cannabis has been examined as a treatment for cancer – which has very few therapy options, all of which come with a whole slew of unwanted side effects. Currently, medical marijuana is mostly used as a way to curb the side effects that come with treatments like chemotherapy, such as nausea, pain and loss of appetite. However, there are a number of studies which suggest that cannabis has far more potential in the fight against cancer.
There is plenty of evidence already that shows that some strains of cannabis have the ability to kill or shrink cancer cells naturally, without the need for radiation treatments. Now a combined effort from CURE Pharmaceutical, CannaKids and Technion Israel Institute of Technology is attempting to determine which strains will work to kill which kinds of cancer cells, and help to treat other symptoms related to cancer.
“This research partnership with Technion, which has one of the leading cannabis laboratories in the world, is a crucial step in our goal to bring new cancer-fighting cannabinoid molecules to market,” said Rob Davidson, CEO of CURE.
The idea is to figure out which strains are best suited to shrink or kill cancer cells, and which particular compounds react to which kinds of cancer. Once they know which strains have a positive effect they will be able to isolate which cannabinoids and terpenes are actually causing the tumors to shrink. This will hopefully help to refine the way we use cannabis as a treatment for cancer by providing people with information on which strains of cannabis will be more helpful for their particular form of cancer.
“In this work the Technion team aims to clarify the antitumor effects of phytocannabinoids and terpenes on various cancer-driving mutations and pathways, as well as further elucidating the mechanism of the cannabinoid-mediated antitumor effects. This will allow not only the identification of new drug candidates but also will create the ability to optimize cannabis treatment options for patients. Together these options further efforts toward the creation of personalized medicine.”
Though this research is only in its earliest stages right now, in a matter of time we will have a far better understanding of how cannabis is able to fight cancer without the need for expensive – and often painful and uncomfortable – radiation and chemotherapy treatments. While this research is being done overseas in Israel, where cannabis research is federally legal, their success will likely lead to studies around the globe, including the U.S. Perhaps in time, we will finally have a real cure for cancer.
When my mother was diagnosed with a rare and often fatal type of cancer known as Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML) in the fall of 2015, my whole world came to a crashing halt. Suddenly, all the trivial details that I thought were important didn’t matter anymore. All I could focus on from that point forward was how I could help my mom win the formidable battle against cancer by any means necessary.
Being the bookworm that I am, I began pouring through research on the disease trying to learn everything I could about what it was and how it could be beat. I searched, frantically, for better options than the traditional chemotherapy and radiation treatment plans that would surely just poison my mom to the brink of organ failure while doctors kept tabs and hoped for the best.
When we were left with no other options, she began the aggressive chemotherapy treatments. As her hair fell out and she got sicker and sicker, my research went from finding cures to seeking remedies. Through all the hours and sleepless nights of scouring the internet for answers, the one wildcard I kept coming across was marijuana.
Cannabis, the cure all?
The healing properties of marijuana have long been known to medical researchers to provide relief for a variety of ailments and diseases, most notably cancer. Most recognize that medical marijuana does in fact provide relief for cancer patients on some level, but the lack of research into nature’s medicine has more to do with legality of a plant than helping those in need.
Without dragging out the entire history on medical marijuana research any longer than need be, here are at least five ways that cannabis can help cancer patients:
Nausea & vomiting
Chemotherapy is a nasty process in which powerful medicines are pumped into the bloodstream to destroy cancerous cells that make your body want to literally turn on itself. The problem is that chemo is a systemic treatment that also destroys healthy cells, often leaving the patient extremely nauseated and sick.
Cannabis is well-known to provide relief against nausea and vomiting that are often caused from chemotherapy and radiation treatments. The active compound in marijuana known as tetrahydrocannabinol (or THC) is so effective that a synthesized version of it called Marinol has been approved and in-use by the FDA since 1985.
Cannabis is also known for being extremely effective in managing pain. As a cancer patient, whole body pain is a daily burden that is actually rated on a scale by nurses in order to assess type and quantity of prescription drugs to give to the patient. For reference, my mom was often at a 7 or 8/10 on the pain scale once her treatments were in full swing.
Chemo causes nausea which causes lack of appetite and leads to scary amounts of weight loss. Personally, I’ve never found anything that stimulates my appetite more than a fat bowl of Weedies in the morning. When you have to eat but feel like crap, marijuana is a wonder drug for appetite stimulation that should not be overlooked.
Cancer patients often suffer through sleep issues when they need it most. One of marijuana’s widely known side effects is that it causes sleepiness, even for those battling severe insomnia in some cases. Give me a fat rip off a powerful indica like Northern Lights and within the hour, I guarantee snoring will ensue.
The key point to this article is that regardless of what you believe about cannabis, do some research and you’ll find that it is proven to be an extremely powerful tool in the fight against cancer and symptoms caused by cancer treatments. The relief it can provide to those who need it most cannot be understated and if we are to evolve in the war against cancer, we are to study and embrace it beyond closed doors.