Mississippians will have an opportunity to legalize medical marijuana this November thanks to a proposed constitutional amendment.
The state board of health is formally opposing the measure, and for some reasons that might not be expected.
The issue will be on the November general election ballot because a group called Mississippians for Compassionate Care were able to collect a sufficient number of signatures on supporting petitions.
State law requires a minimum of 86,183 certified signatures with at least 17,237 from each of the five congressional district as of the year 2000. That’s about 12 percent of the total number of votes cast for governor in the last previous election.
Initiative 65, if passed, would allow qualified patients with debilitating medical conditions certified by Mississippi licensed physicians to obtain marijuana from licensed treatment centers and use it.
Use would be regulated by the state health department.
A person using medical marijuana would still be subject to the same laws as someone impaired by alcohol or other drugs, Non-smoking rules would also still apply and insurance would not be required to pay for medical marijuana.
The proposed bill lists a number of specific chronic serious and life-threatening illnesses that would qualify one for medical marijuana use. The amount dispensed to any person would be limited and the medical marijuana program would have to be financially self-sufficient.
State health officials have several objections to the proposal.
One is that actions by the legislature should be sufficient to regulate marijuana use without need for a constitutional amendment.
A more immediate objection is that it would fall to state health officials to manage all aspects of the program including finances, regulation, availability and oversight.
Also, they note that the Food and Drug Administration has already approved several drugs derived from marijuana and its components, CBD and THC. These are legally available in Mississippi now.
They can be used to treat seizures, AIDS, cancer, side effects of chemotherapy and their safety is backed by research, the officials say.
They fear that medical marijuana would be used for broader purposes and say studies have shown that marijuana affects the user’s mental processes. They also say the proposed law does not allow for variances in strength from one batch of marijuana to another, assuming what every patients needs is 2.5 ounces every 14 days.constitutional amendment, marijuana, medical, New Albany, November ballot, Union County