Mississippi to vote on medical marijuana in 2020

The Mississippi Medical Marijuana Amendment has officially qualified for the ballot and was filed with the Mississippi State Legislature on January 7, the first day of the 2020 legislative session. The legislature must act on the measure within four months. The measure will appear on the 2020 ballot regardless of whether the state legislature adopts, rejects, or ignores the measure. The legislature may also choose to approve an amended or alternative version of the measure. In this case, both the original and legislative alternative versions would appear on the ballot together, giving voters the choice to reject both measures or approve one. For approval, an initiative in Mississippi must receive a majority of the total votes cast for that particular initiative and must also receive more than 40% of the total votes cast in that election.

The amendment would establish a medical marijuana program in Mississippi for individuals with a debilitating medical condition (as defined). Medical marijuana could be recommended for patients with at least one of the more than 20 qualifying conditions under the measure including cancer, epilepsy or seizures, Parkinson’s disease, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), Crohn’s disease, HIV, and more. Patients could possess up to 2.5 ounces of medical marijuana at one time. The Mississippi Department of Health would be charged with implementing the provisions of the amendment and issuing rules and regulations for the program.

Mississippians for Compassionate Care is sponsoring the amendment. Proponents of the measure submitted more than 214,000 signatures in September, of which, 105,686 were found to be valid. To qualify for the ballot, 86,185 valid signatures were required. According to the most recent available reports, which covered through November 30, 2019, the Mississippians for Compassionate Care committee had raised $2,037,489 and had spent $2,099,967.

The amendment was proposed in July 2018 by Ashley Durval, the mother of Harper Grace Durval. In 2014, the Mississippi Legislature passed Harper Grace’s Law, which removed marijuana extract oil (CBD oil) from Mississippi’s list of controlled substances and allowed its prescription for medicinal applications. Harper Grace Durval has Davet Syndrome, a type of epilepsy that causes seizures.

Mississippi State Department of Health communications director Liz Sharlot said, “the Mississippi State Board of Health is not supportive of the legalization of the Medical Marijuana amendment. It is not FDA approved, it is illegal, and has not undergone a rigorous medical review. Currently, there are no statutes on the book, so we are watching the events as they unfold.”

As of 2019, 33 states and Washington, D.C., had passed laws legalizing or decriminalizing medical marijuana. Additionally, 13 states had legalized the use of cannabis oil, or cannabidiol (CBD)—one of the non-psychoactive ingredients found in marijuana—for medical purposes.

Also set to appear on the 2020 ballot is a recreational marijuana legalization amendment in New Jersey that would legalize the possession and use of marijuana for persons age 21 and older and legalize the cultivation, processing, and sale of retail marijuana. In November, South Dakota will become the first state to vote on separate measures that would legalize recreational marijuana and establish a medical marijuana program at the same election.

Measures concerning medical marijuana have been proposed targeting the 2020 ballot in Florida, Idaho, Mississippi, and Nebraska. Measures to legalize marijuana for recreational use have been proposed targeting the 2020 ballot in Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, and Oklahoma.

A total of 14 measures appeared on the statewide ballot in Mississippi from 1995 to 2018. Seven of the measures were approved and six were defeated. One measure was not formatted as a yes or no question; rather, the measure asked voters to select a preferred flag for the state of Mississippi.

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Additional reading:
Mississippi 2020 ballot measures
2020 ballot measures
Marijuana on the ballot