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.
The practice of social-distancing because of the Covid-19 pandemic has effectively hit the pause-button on some voter-backed legalization measures in states like Missouri and Montana this year, but according to Governor Laura Kelly of Kansas, lawmakers in her state still aim to move forward with the legalization of medical marijuana.
With the coronavirus limiting the amount of time lawmakers have left to make decisions this year, they are forced to prioritize topics. Gov. Kelly says legalizing medical cannabis and expanding the state’s Medicaid program are at the top of the priority list for lawmakers to discuss when they come back. If a measure to legalize medical cannabis reaches Kelly’s desk, she plans to sign it.
“There’s been some discussion about legalizing medical marijuana, and I think that discussion continues,” Kelly told local news outlet KSNT. “I think if it actually was able to come to a vote, I think that it probably would pass the legislature.”
The entire state Legislature originally planned to reconvene on April 27, but after the state’s stay-at-home orders were extended through May 3, plans changed. Now, only the Legislative Coordinating Committee will reconvene on May 6, and then committee members will decide when the rest of the legislature will meet again.
What would a medical marijuana market look like in Kansas?
Smoking dried cannabis flowers would not likely be a permitted method of delivery for patients in Kansas because according to Sen. Bud Estes (R-Dodge City), Ohio has the right idea when it comes to medical marijuana regulations.
“The Ohio bill…comes the closest to doing what we feel like we should be doing here in Kansas,” Estes told KCUR.
Gov. Kelly’s picture of what retail medical marijuana looks like seems to be aligned with Estes’. “I have always said that I want it well regulated so that it’s controlled and it doesn’t get…so that it’s not the first step to the legalization of marijuana,” said Kelly. “I want it to be seen as a pharmaceutical.”
The policy structure in Ohio does not allow patients to smoke or combust dried flowers, but vaporizing them is acceptable as long as the heating element does not make direct contact with the product.
Edible forms of medical cannabis, such as gummies and brownies, would most likely be available in Kansas as well as topical forms like lotions and balms. In Ohio, transdermal patches are also an option for patients, but lawmakers have not reported whether or not patches will be on the shelves if it is legalized in Kansas.
What about recreational legalization?
While Gov. Kelly has said that legalizing recreational marijuana for adults is not a top priority or even a goal for the future, she is not completely opposed to it.
When asked if she would approve legislation to legalize the recreational sale and use in The Sunflower State, Kelly said she would probably sign it if that is what voters wanted and lawmakers sent it to her desk.
The majority of voters in Kansas are actually in favor of recreational legalization according to the Kansas Speaks Fall 2019 Statewide Public Opinion Survey.
The survey, conducted from August 26 to October 14, 2019, revealed that 61.3 percent of participants are in favor of legalizing recreational cannabis for adults aged 21 and over, in order to generate tax-revenue for the state from product sales. According to the survey, 25.8 percent of respondents oppose recreational legalization.
Marijuana reform will likely be on the Trump administration’s agenda after the midterm elections, Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) said on Thursday.
In an interview with Fox Business, Rohrabacher said he’s been “talking to people inside the White House” and members of President Donald Trump’s inner circle about ending cannabis prohibition. The congressman said he’s been “reassured that the president intends on keeping his campaign promise” to protect local marijuana policies from federal interference.
Though Rohrabacher didn’t point to specific legislation that the president is reportedly interested in advancing, he said that details would likely begin to take shape after November 6.
“I would expect after the election we will sit down and we’ll start hammering out something that is specific and real.”
Trump has previously voiced support for a bipartisan bill, introduced by Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Cory Gardner (R-CO), which would amend the Controlled Substances Act to protect states that legalize cannabis from federal interference. He also embraced medical cannabis during his presidential campaign, saying that he knows people who have benefited from using it.
Rohrabacher, in the new interview published Thursday, laid out a vague timeline for anticipated congressional action on marijuana reform.
“It could be as early as spring of 2019, but definitely in the next legislative session,” he said.
What remains to be seen is which party will ultimately take the lead on marijuana after the midterms. Though Democrats are generally more supportive of cannabis reform and multiple bills have been introduced to achieve that end, a top House Democrat recently conceded that the party hasn’t been actively discussing plans to pass marijuana legislation.
Asked last month whether Democrats would bring cannabis legislation to the floor if the party retakes the House in November, House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-MD) admitted “[w]e haven’t talked about that.”
And House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), who is expected to seek the speakership again if Democrats win control of the chamber in the midterms, indicated that the prospects for marijuana legislation would depend on support from the president.
“I don’t know where the president is on any of this,” she said. “So any decision about how we go forward would have to reflect where we can get the result.”
Based on polling, either party stands to benefit from taking on a marijuana friendly agenda. Fewer Republican voters support full legalization, compared to Democrats, but when it comes to medical cannabis, there’s sizable majority support on both sides of the aisle.
See the original article published on Marijuana Moment below:
Recent polls indicate support for medical cannabis legalization is hovering around 90% amongst American voters, likely making it the most popular issue in the country this election cycle. Increasing numbers of Congressmen – perhaps a majority in the House of Representatives – have pledged to support medical cannabis legalization for a host of reasons ranging from states’ rights to criminal justice reform to economic growth.
We believe it’s time for Congress to vote on medical cannabis legalization and right an injustice that has plagued this nation for decades. The prospect of having this vote before the midterm elections makes even the most ardent supporters nervous. Echoing the arguments made against Women’s Suffrage, the Civil Rights Movement, and Marriage Equality, many contend that it’s not the right time to force a vote – if we’re just patient, in a few years, the time will come.
For the millions of predominately African American and Hispanic Americans imprisoned for cannabis-related offenses, for the thousands of dispensary owners being taxed out of existence by 280e, and for the tens of millions of patients being denied effective treatment by outdated laws, there is no comfort in, “the time will come.” For them, justice delayed is justice denied.
MassRoots is launching #LegalizeNow, a docuseries covering the progression of medical cannabis legalization in the United States, including the movement for a discharge petition on the STATES Act. Should 218 members of the House of Representatives sign this discharge petition, the STATES Act to legalize medical cannabis will be brought to a vote this fall.
We’re calling on all Americans to leave a video testimonial at LegalizeNow.com on the reasons you support medicinal cannabis legalization and the impact cannabis has had on your life.
We recognize this movement is a long-shot: Congress has never voted on medical cannabis legalization and some critics say it will never happen. However, all great movements start with a small group of passionate supporters working tirelessly against all odds.
For the patients, prisoners, activists, and entrepreneurs of the legalization movement, let’s #LegalizeNow!!!
The primary author of Bill 4477, also known as “The Compassionate Use of Medical Cannabis Act,” Isabela Rep. Rodolfo Albano III reported that the House decision to consider the proposal is a bright light for patients “with debilitating disease, severe pain, intense seizures and persistent muscle spasms.”
Albano called attention to research that cited medical cannabis as an effective treatment for seizures in children. He appealed directly to parents who have become financially challenged by and frustrated with the efficacy of current pharmaceutical drugs. He stressed that if the bill became law, the Department of Health and the Food and Drug Administration would closely regulate cannabis for medical use alone. This legislation does not address or support recreational use of cannabis.
After consideration of Bill 4477 by the health committee, La Union Rep. Eufranio Eriguel announced that a technical working group (TWG) will be created to write its own draft of the proposal. The TWG will be responsible for gathering information, including research studies, medical professionals, government and non-government agencies and patient testimonies, and then drafting another version of the bill based on the findings.
Romeo Quijano, one of the physicians who will contribute to the committee’s decision, pointed to the example of the Unites States, in which 23 states and the District of Columbia allow cannabis to be used in medical treatment. Dr. Quijano addressed the committee,
“There is no single death in the US in 2014 attributed directly to the use of marijuana, unlike smoking and drinking.”
In addition, the doctor drew attention to ongoing studies by researchers in the U.S., Israel and Spain into the medical benefits of cannabis.
Another House supporter of the bill is Rep. Leah Paquiz, whose son died from what she termed “a debilitating disease.” Paquiz shared that her family wished there had been an effective and less expensive alternative to morphine to help her son in his pain.
Albano urged those resistant to legalization to “shed your fear of the unknown and open your minds to the potential benefits of medical marijuana.”
A deadline for the new proposal has not yet been set.
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