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.
Making history as the first country in Southeast Asia to do so, Thailand legalized medical cannabis on December 24, 2018. The amendment was passed by the National Legislative Assembly with a final tally of 166 to zero, and 13 members abstained from the vote.
Somchai Sawangkarn, a lawmaker in Thailand, said the amendment “could be considered as a New Year gift to Thais.”
This came as a surprise to some considering that Thailand has a reputation for having notoriously harsh laws regarding the use, cultivation, production and transportation of any drugs. Once the new law is published in the Royal Gazette, the cultivation, import, export, possession and consumption of cannabis for medical purposes will be legal in the Land of Smiles. Recreational cultivation and possession of cannabis will remain illegal and punishable by time in jail.
Who can buy and sell medical marijuana in Thailand?
Those who want to produce or sell medical marijuana in Thailand will require a license to do so legally. Commercial licenses will only be granted to companies that are two-thirds owned by Thai nationals. Patients who want to use medical marijuana legally will need to first get a prescription from an approved medical doctor or a traditional Thai healer. Patients will not be permitted to grow at home.
Why did Thailand Legalize Medical Marijuana?
This legislative decision to legalize medical marijuana was inspired by anecdotal evidence presented by the people of Thailand who already use cannabis to treat medical conditions, as well as the drug policy reform taking place in other countries throughout the world. The legalization amendment mentioned that scientific research has influenced, “many countries around the world to ease their laws by enacting legal amendments to allow their citizens to legally use kratom and marijuana for medicinal or recreational purposes.”
Kratom is a plant, in the coffee family, that is native to Southeast Asia. Like the cannabis plant, kratom also has a bad reputation because it can cause mind altering effects. The effects of kratom vary depending on the strain and quantity consumed. It was outlawed in Thailand in 1943, but Thais continue to use it medicinally as a pain reliever and a stimulant.
2018 has been a banner year for marijuana ballot initiatives. Voters in two states are considering legalizing recreational use, while those in another two states will decide whether to allow medical cannabis.
In the lead-up to the election, committees supporting or opposing these initiatives have raised a total of $12.9 million in cash and in-kind services over the past two years to convince those voters, Marijuana Moment’s analysis of the latest campaign finance records filed the day before Election Day shows.
On the day final ballots are cast and tallied, here’s where funding totals now stand for the various cannabis committees, both pro and con, in the four states considering major modifications to marijuana laws.
(Notes: For Missouri, PACS supported one of three initiatives that would bring some form of medical marijuana to the state. Missouri Oppose ($6,000) data isn’t visible on chart due to scale.)
New Approach Missouri, which supports Amendment 2, raised a total of $1.7 million. Major donors included Drug Policy Action, which contributed $258,500 and the national New Approach PAC, which contributed a total of $173,470 in-kind, most of that coming through in October. Former Anheuser-Busch CEO Adulphus Busch IV contributed $134,000 through individual donations and his Belleau Farms. Seven Points LLC contributed $125,000 over the course of the year, Missouri Essentials dropped in $97,000 and Emerald City Holdings put in $75,000. The group received a last-minute $25,000 donation from 91-year-old Ethelmae Humphrys, former CEO of TAMKO, and realtor Ron Stenger contributed $25,000 over the year.
Latecomer PAC Patients Against the “Bradshaw Amendment,” also supports Amendment 2 and raised $2,530.
Missourians for Patient Care, which supports Proposition C, reports raising $1.48 million, but much of that is in-kind services from staff.
Another group, Show-Me Cannabis Regulation, raised only $350.
Citizens for SAFE Medicine, which opposes all the initiatives, did not appear on the scene until September, and accounts for only $6,000 of the total.
Michigan committees raised more than $5 million in the past two years around adult-use legalization on the ballot. The pro-legalization Coalition to Regulate Marijuana like Alcohol raised the most: $2.3 million. The National New Approach PAC provided almost half of those funds, with $1.1 million in contributions. The Marijuana Policy Project contributed $554,205, while the Drug Policy Alliance provided $75,000 in the last weeks of the campaign.
Anti-legalization committee Healthy and Productive Michigan was right behind, raising $2.2 million, with over a million of that from national prohibition organization Smart Approaches to Marijuana (SAM). SAM also provided over $125,000 of in-kind support.
MI Legalize raised just over $500,000, most of that in 2017, and two smaller PACS raised a total of $10,000.
Funding has continued to pour in at an extraordinary rate during the last days of the campaign. 31 percent of the total money raised—$1.6 million—has come in since October 21.
The PIC that raised the most was against the proposition: Drug Safe Utah raised $842,424 in 2018. Over $350,000 of that funding came from a single lawyer, William Plumb, and his associates.
A smaller opponent to the proposition, Truth About Proposition, raised $66,040.
It took pro-reform PIC Utah Patients Coalition 18 months to raise $831,471. The group’s largest donor was the national organization Marijuana Policy Project, which contributed $268,000 in cash and $55,111 of in-kind staff time. The Libertas Institute contributed $135,000, and hemp-infused Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soaps donated $50,000. Non-profit patient group Our Story contributed $49,000 and DKT Liberty Project put in $35,000.
With the exception of Drug Safe Utah, most campaign finance activity surrounding the race has slowed significantly following the announcement last month of a deal to pass a compromise medical cannabis bill through the legislature after Election Day.
The committees supporting the initiative were heavily out-funded in cash funding, by a ratio of 18 to one. Healthy and Productive North Dakota, which opposes the measure, accounted for more than half of the total funds raised, even though it didn’t start raising money until October. It raised a total of $226,234, entirely from SAM, which also supplied $237,234 of in-kind support.
North Dakotans Against the Legalization of Marijuana raised a total of $163,180, almost two-thirds of that in October. Big donors last month included the North Dakota Petroleum Council with $30,000, and the Greater North Dakota Chamber, which contributed $10,000 on top of their $30,000 donation in September. The Associated General Contractors of North Dakota dropped in $10,000. Outdoor sports magnate Steve Scheels contributed $10,000 personally, and $9,500 through the Scheels corporation.
Pro-legalization group LegalizeND raised only $19,754 in cash, but received another $67,264 in in-kind services. A separate group, Legalize North Dakota, appears to have raised approximately $12,750, but the reports it filed are not consistent.
After all the money that has been spent across the four states, the decision is in the hands of voters. Within hours, the ballots will be counted, and the effectiveness of the funds contributed and spent on both sides of the various measures in the four states can be evaluated.
See the original article published on Marijuana Moment below:
One of three medical marijuana legalization initiatives on the Missouri ballot passed on Tuesday, while two other competing initiatives have failed.
With 100 percent of precincts reporting, the initiative, Amendment 2, was approved 66-34 percent.
The fight to legalize in Missouri was complicated this year after multiple initiatives qualified for the ballot: one proposed statutory change and two constitutional amendments.
Amendment 2, backed by New Approach Missouri, was favored by national advocacy groups such as MPP and NORML. The measure allows physicians to recommend medical cannabis for any condition they see fit.
“Thanks to the unflagging efforts of patients and advocates, Missourians who could benefit from medical marijuana will soon be able to use it without fear of being treated like criminals,” Matthew Schweich, deputy director of the Marijuana Policy Project, said in a statement to Marijuana Moment. “We hope lawmakers will implement the measure efficiently and effectively to ensure qualified patients can gain access to their medicine as soon as possible.”
Under the measure, patients and registered caregivers would be allowed to grow up to six plants and purchase up to four ounces of marijuana from a dispensary per month. Sales would be taxed at four percent.
The other measures on the ballot also generally would have provided protections for cannabis patients and establish legal systems for patients to obtain marijuana from dispensaries. But there were significant differences when it came to taxation for each measure.
UPDATE: This story has been updated to reflect the latest election results information.
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See the original article published on Marijuana Moment below: