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.
When the recreational possession and use of cannabis is legalized, but a regulated retail market is not, people are forced to think of creative ways to obtain and provide weed. In this case, though, the creativity comes from a cute canine named Sudo.
While a regulated recreational market has not been established in Washington D.C., the transfer of up to one-ounce of cannabis, from one of-age adult to another, is permitted. This hand-off is known as “gifting.” As a result, several creative businesses have popped up, operating in the grey area of the law, to meet the distribution needs for District residents.
In 2016, adults living in the nation’s capital could get free weed delivered with the purchase of fresh juice. Now, a pair of entrepreneurs have finally figured out what the people really want: to receive their free gift of cannabis by purchasing a painting made by an adorable Alaskan Klee Kai called Sudo.
District Derp is the Washington D.C. brand that is marketing “exceptional art for elevated minds,” and providing cannabis gifts in the form of dried flower, edibles, and vape cartridges to adults who buy one of Sudo’s paintings. Identification is required to make a purchase if you want the free “token of appreciation,” but the artwork alone is also for sale to those under the age of 21 or anyone living outside of Washington D.C..
Artwork orders can either be picked up or delivered. There is a minimum purchase amount of $40 required for pickup orders, and $80 for delivery. Orders are placed through the brand’s website, and a user account must be set up first for identity verification purposes. Once the account is created, customers have access to the art gallery offerings and corresponding gifts. Assuring that customers are 21 or older, the team requires that the name on an order match the valid identification shown at the time of hand-off.
Rather than a menu, since District Derp is not a licensed dispensary, there is a “gift guide” which details the different kinds of appreciative tokens available at the time the painting is purchased.
Flower offerings on the gift guide include strains like Pink Cookies, Papaya Dream, and Big Mac 11. Tahoe OG, White Widow, and Skywalker OG are available in vape cartridges, and edibles include a variety of chocolates, gummies, and an oat bar ranging in potency from 20mg to 65mg.
The star of the edibles has to be the 100mg Atomic Derps, which are described as “a brownie of epic proportions” that include a “cookie layer topped with Oreos, brownies and chocolate ganache.”
The plants harvested to make the tokens of appreciation come from seeds provided by the brand owners that are cultivated off-site by a licensed-caregiver. The edibles are created by the team in their home with extensive product testing and sampling to ensure that the goods are customer-ready before they are ever given out.
Overall, District Derp’s business model seems to value the important things when it comes to distributing cannabis. The brand’s website says that they focus on product quality and customer service. Most importantly, though, there is a cute dog who paints!
The brand also donates to charity. An appropriate choice, a portion of the revenue from selling Sudo’s paintings is donated to Homewards Trails Animal Rescue.
Due to the restrictions placed on nonessential businesses in Washington D.C., District Derp will remain closed until at least June 8. According to the brand’s website, they do plan to reopen when the stay-at-home orders are lifted.
How did Sudo learn to paint?
Sudo’s teammates say that it all started because she had a natural affinity for carrying sticks. She would often carry the stick of her choice, in her mouth, while on walks. Inspired by this, and a challenge from a friend, they created a special stick-like-prototype designed just for her. Sudo’s special doggy paintbrush is a “T-shaped brush that she can hold comfortably and naturally [to] look straight at the canvas while she paints.”
Why doesn’t Washington D.C. have recreational dispensaries?
Voters in Washington D.C. overwhelmingly approved Initiative 71 in November of 2014, effectively ending the prohibition of marijuana in the nation’s capital. The measure did not, however, include a framework for licensing dispensaries or commercial cultivation centers. Despite efforts from local leaders, like city council members and even the mayor, Congress blocked cannabis dispensaries from being allowed in the District. The Congressional block remains in place until at least September of this year.
Medical marijuana is a different story in the District, however, as there are currently seven medical dispensaries open to serve registered patients. Medical dispensaries were deemed essential businesses and have remained operational during the stay-at-home orders of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Conditions which qualify a person to apply for a medical marijuana card in Washington D.C. include:
Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV)
Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS)
Conditions characterized by severe and persistent muscle spasms, such as multiple sclerosis
Certain cancer treatments also qualify a person for medical marijuana. These include:
Vanessa Kyrobie is a wife and mother of two children, one boy and one girl, living in Utah. She reports that using medical cannabis has changed her life drastically, and that without it, she may not be here today.
Suffering from a bacterial brain infection, Vanessa’s symptoms include nerve pain, intense body aches, nausea, headaches, insomnia, and more. She is prescribed to take nine different pharmaceuticals every single day to treat her debilitating symptoms, and those pills come with adverse side effects.
The infection left her “essentially bed-ridden,” for a period of time, and her symptoms were so devitalizing that she contemplated suicide. “The nausea was pretty intense, and the pain in my body was beyond unbearable, level eight, nine, 10,” Vanessa said. “I honestly feel if it wasn’t for medical marijuana, I wouldn’t be here.”
“Gabapentin was for nerve pain, Microzene was my anti-nausea,” Vanessa explained. “I haven’t used any of these since switching to medical marijuana.”
Medical Marijuana in Utah
Preferring to vaporize and eat gummies containing a five to one ratio of CBD to THC, now that it is legal in Utah, Vanessa uses medical cannabis three times per day.
Refusing to break the law, Vanessa waited until December 3, 2018, the day the Utah Medical Cannabis Act went into effect, to begin using medical marijuana. Her quality of life has increased dramatically in the short time since implementing this alternative treatment plan that was recommended by her doctor.
“I’m actually having more energy, and I’m sleeping better,” Vanessa said. The pain is now down to level three and four. It’s been life changing for me.”
Medical marijuana will not be available to patients in the Beehive State until 2021 when the “pharmacies,” which will distribute the medication, are expected to open. In the meantime, if a patient is caught bringing medical cannabis into Utah from a neighboring state like Nevada or Colorado, he or she will not be prosecuted as long as it has been recommended as treatment by a physician.
The Arizona medical marijuana program reached a record breaking high in 2018 with patients consuming nearly 61 tons of cannabis products, according to the Arizona Medical Marijuana Program Report released by the state Department of Health Services on Monday, January 14. That amount is equivalent to almost 122,000 pounds, or about nine African Bush Elephants.
Including all types of products for all methods of consumption, the report only separates them into three main categories — marijuana, marijuana edibles, and marijuana other. The “marijuana” category covers flower. “Marijuana edibles” describes anything ingestible like food or beverages and tinctures, and “marijuana other” describes vape cartridges, topicals and concentrates.
The “marijuana” category in the report reveals that flower was the most popular product sold in the Copper State last year with 111,830.93 pounds being consumed by registered patients. “Marijuana edibles” account for 4,983.35 pounds, and 5,101.50 pounds were considered “marijuana other.”
Voters in Arizona approved the Arizona Medical Marijuana Act (AMMA) in 2010, taking rank as the 14th state to enact the legalization of medical cannabis. AMMA went into effect on April 14, 2011, and the program has grown like a weed in the nearly eight years it has been running. For example, just less than 2.5 tons of marijuana edibles were sold in 2018 alone, which is the same amount as all of the medical cannabis products combined that were consumed by patients in the entire year of 2012.
The number of registered medical marijuana patients has also grown exponentially since 2012 when there were only approximately 40,000 patients. In 2018, there were 189,017 registered patients in the state. Only 2,613 registered patients and caregivers are approved to cultivate at home, which explains the huge demand for store bought products.
The largest age groups for patients in Arizona were 18 to 30 years, accounting for 51,637 people, and 31 to 40 years with 40,959 people. Only 202 registered patients were younger than 18, and 1,858 card holders were 81 or older. 118,767 patients were male, and 79,250 were female.
For the first time in nearly a century, cannabis seeds have been legally planted in Arkansas.
The state awarded a total of only five licenses for medical marijuana producers, and BOLD Team Cultivation is officially the first to begin the process. BOLD TEAM LLC said that they are, “pleased to announce that we have been granted approval to begin cultivation of medical marijuana.”
“The cultivation process is now underway and we expect to have medicine available to dispensaries in April 2019,” the company said in a statement. “We are honored to begin meeting the medical needs of so many Arkansans at this historic moment in our great state.”
Site approval was given by the Arkansas Alcoholic Beverage Control on January 10, 2019. BOLD Team LLC expects to harvest in time to have product on the shelves by April of this year. The first operating cultivation center is located in Cotton Plant, AK, about 80 miles west of Memphis and approximately 75 minutes northeast of Little Rock. This cultivation center creates 20 to 25 new jobs in Cotton Plant, a town with a population of only 600.
According to Scott Hardin of the Arkansas Department of Finance and Administration, there will be 32 licensed dispensaries in the state, and the Arkansas Alcoholic Beverage Control is working now to issue those licenses. Medical marijuana cards for the 7,000 expected patients are not set to be issued until 30 days before product hits dispensary shelves.
“Currently, we are talking with different dispensaries trying to – pun intended – cultivate relationships with them to where we can have a solid date to be able to have the medicine on the shelves,” said Robert Lercher, BOLD director of customer relations. “We’re just excited about being one step closer to the medicine being available to the patients that have waited so long for it in Arkansas.”
Voters approved Issue 6 on November 8, 2016, legalizing marijuana for medicinal purposes. Marijuana prohibition began in Arkansas in 1923.