Medical Cannabis Legalization Passes in Mississippi

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Editor’s note: Election results reported are projected, and subject to change. CBT/CD will update its election coverage as necessary to accommodate changing election results.

Preliminary results from Mississippi show that medical cannabis legalization passed with approximately 67% of the vote, according to the New York Times. Initiative 65, the measure from Mississippians for Compassionate Care’s Medical Marijuana 2020 campaign, received about 48% more votes than a competing measure put on the ballot by the state legislature, Alternative 65A. Roughly 33% of voters were against both measures.

Mississippians for Compassionate Care announced its win on social media.

A fiscal analysis by Mississippi’s Legislative Budget Office estimates the first year of the medical program will cost the state roughly $11.1 million, according to the Medical Marijuana 2020 site. In the following years, the program will bring in around $10.7 million in overall annual revenue, which will need to go back into the program.

Residents must have one of 22 serious qualifying conditions, such as cancer, chronic pain, or epilepsy, to qualify as a medical cannabis patient.

Mississippians for Compassionate Care nor the state representatives behind Alternative 65A could not be reached for comment by Cannabis Business Times and Cannabis Dispensary about election results.

Jamie Grantham, Medical Marijuana 2020’s communications director, told CBT and CDi n July, “Our medical marijuana program here in Mississippi is going to be a robust program in that patients who need help will actually have access to regulated, safe, secure medical marijuana.

“It is going to be a strictly regulated program made especially for Mississippi. It’ll be regulated by the Mississippi Department of Health, and medical marijuana treatment centers here in Mississippi will be the only places that medical marijuana will be available.”

Regarding Alternative 65A, legislators’ competing measure, Grantham said at the time that she believed the legislature was working to confuse voters and intentionally split the vote, adding that the lack of a timeline in the competing proposal could halt the development of a medical cannabis program indefinitely.

“If they actually wanted to put a medical marijuana program in place, they would have done it legislatively,” Grantham said in July. “But there’s been more than 25 attempts by people to pass [medical cannabis] bills legislatively, and they’ve never allowed them to go to the floor. So, the only reason they put the alternative on the ballot is because ours had just qualified.”

In late October, Mary Hawkins Butler, mayor of Jackson, Miss., suburb Madison, petitioned the Mississippi Supreme Court, claiming Initiative 65 is unconstitutional, according to ABC affiliate WAPT.

Steve Hawkins, executive director of the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP), said in a prepared statement provided to CBT and CD, “Just like we saw in the 2018 victory in Utah, Mississippi voters have proven that medical marijuana legalization is politically viable in even the most conservative states in the country. This victory is especially significant considering voters were able to see past the legislature’s attempt to derail Amendment 65 by proposing a confusing and unnecessary alternative initiative of their own.”

Paul Armentano, deputy director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML), said in a prepared statement provided to CBT and CD, “Initiative 65 puts the needs and interests of patients first. This was a grassroots effort to provide patients with access to a treatment option that patients already enjoy in 34 other states and in the District of Columbia.

“By contrast, Measure 65A was a cynical effort by lawmakers to misdirect voters. The same state lawmakers that for decades had refused to ever seriously address the issue were the ones behind 65A, and voters wisely rejected their campaign.”

Morgan Fox, media relations director and committee manager of NCIA, said in a prepared statement, “Despite the best efforts of the opposition to create confusion on this ballot, Mississippi voters showed that they want their seriously ill loved ones to be able to safely and legally access the medicine that works for them.

“We urge the state government to begin implementing this sensible measure without delay so that Mississippians can get relief as soon as possible and start obtaining medical cannabis from tested and reliable providers. Hopefully this successful initiative will push more states in the region to enact effective medical cannabis programs of their own.”

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