Mississippi Voters Will Decide on Medical Marijuana Legalization in 2020

Mississippi state officials announced that a medical marijuana ballot initiative has qualified for the 2020 state election.

Whether Mississippi legalizes medical marijuana this year will be up to the people. The Mississippi Secretary of State’s office on Tuesday certified Ballot Initiative 65 and filed it with the state legislature.

If approved by voters in November, the initiative will “amend the Mississippi Constitution to allow qualified patients with debilitating medical conditions, as certified by Mississippi licensed physicians, to use medical marijuana.”

Qualifying patients would be able to obtain medical marijuana through a licensed treatment center and the Mississippi State Department of Health would regulate and enforce the new law. Medical marijuana patients could receive up to 2.5 ounces of cannabis in a single 14-day period.

Patients would be given a 12-month certification from a physician allowing them access to a medical marijuana card. To qualify for the program, patients must be diagnosed with one of 22 medical conditions, some of which include cancer, epilepsy, Parkinson’s, and multiple sclerosis.

The campaign group, Mississippians for Compassionate Care, turned in nearly 106,000 signatures in Sept. 2019, easily exceeding the 86,000 required.

If the measure is approved by voters, Mississippi will join the 33 other states with comprehensive medical marijuana programs, including neighboring states Arkansas and Louisiana.

Opposition to Mississippi’s Medical Marijuana Ballot Measure

State health agencies and the state’s former Gov. Phil Bryant have voiced concerns about Mississippi’s new cannabis reform measure. The Mississippi State Department of Health released a statement on Jan. 9 highlighting concerns with the framework of the medical cannabis initiative.

Also in January, the Mississippi State Board of Health (MSBH) passed a resolution “Regarding The Medical Marijuana 2020 Ballot Initiative,” stating opposition to the medical marijuana legislation. The resolution included a need for more federal regulation and direction, more oversight from Mississippi state legislature, and it also included language suggesting that the state agency did not want the responsibility to manage the new program.

The MSBH stated that giving the state’s department of health the responsibility of overseeing the medical marijuana program would be “beyond the capacity” of the department and would bring serious harm to the “function” of the agency.

Another reason the MSBH opposes the cannabis ballot measure, according to the resolution, is its claim that routine marijuana consumption is “contrary to the mission of public health.”

Learn about current marijuana laws in Mississippi.

States That Could Legalize Marijuana in 2020

Mississippi is now the third state in the nation to place a marijuana initiative in the 2020 election year. This week South Dakota made history by qualifying two marijuana initiatives for the Nov. 2020 election, with the potential to both medical and recreational cannabis in the same election.

New Jersey state officials approved a ballot question last month, giving state voters the opportunity to legalize recreational marijuana.

In total, roughly eleven states could see cannabis legalization in 2020.

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