Mississippi’s governor said on Wednesday that he’s opposed to a medical marijuana legalization initiative that’s qualified for the state’s November ballot—but he also hinted at the possibility of the legislature introducing a revised, alternative reform measure.
While the secretary of state certified this week that the proposal to establish a medical cannabis system received enough valid signatures to make it on to the 2020 ballot, it’s still subject to a review by lawmakers, who have four months to approve, reject or amend the proposal.
Even if the legislature rejects it, the initiative will still go before voters; however, if they choose to submit an alternative measure, that could complicate matters, as voters would then face two competing marijuana questions on the same ballot.
Gov. Phil Bryant (R) said that he met with physicians and members of the state’s Board of Health, which opposes the initiative, and reached the conclusion that voters should reject it—with a caveat.
Met with physicians and others on the Board of Health who oppose this amendment to our constitution. I agree that we need to defeat this proposal in its current form. https://t.co/DQqM5JGbva
— Phil Bryant (@PhilBryantMS) January 8, 2020
“I agree that we need to defeat this proposal in its current form,” the governor wrote.
That is, rather than outright opposing medical marijuana legalization in principle, he seemed to leave the door open to amending the proposal, though it’s not clear how dramatically he would want to change it.
Marijuana Moment reached out to Bryant’s office for comment, but a representative was not immediately available.
Jamie Grantham, communications director for the Medical Marijuana 2020 Campaign, told Marijuana Moment that the group’s “primary concern” is ensuring that patients have access to cannabis for therapeutic purposes, and the initiative would accomplish that.
“We have the advantage of looking to other states for what has worked well to ensure safe and secure access for qualified patients, and that is reflected in the ballot initiative language,” Grantham said. “This initiative in its current form would be a Godsend to so many who suffer and are in need of an alternative treatment option here in Mississippi.”
The measure would allow patients suffering from debilitating medical issues to access cannabis after consulting with a physician and receiving a recommendation. The measure features 22 qualifying conditions such as cancer, chronic pain and post-traumatic stress disorder. Each patient would be allowed to possess up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana per 14-day period.
It’s no surprise that the governor came out against the initiative, as he’s been on record opposing cannabis reform before. The health board has also previously come out against medical cannabis legalization, and its members made that position official on Wednesday after passing a resolution in opposition to the newly qualified ballot initiative.
What is surprising, however, is that Bryant is indicating that there might be some form of reform model that he’d be inclined to support, or at least not proactively oppose. As it stands, Mississippi only has a limited CBD program, and access has proved cumbersome due to restrictions on how can provide the oil.
In the coming months, voters will learn whether they will have one or two medical cannabis legalization measures to consider in November. But while the governor might want the public to embrace a legislature-crafted proposal that would presumably be more limited in scope, polling shows that upwards of 77 percent of residents are in favor of legalizing for medical purposes, and so that majority may gravitate toward a more comprehensive version.
In the event that both versions receive majority support on Election Day in November, the one that receives more votes will prevail.
The Mississippi initiative is the fourth marijuana question to have qualified for a 2020 state ballot so far.
A measure to legalize marijuana in South Dakota qualified on Monday, weeks after a separate medical cannabis legalization initiative made the cut. And in New Jersey, the legislature approved a resolution last month that will put the question of full marijuana legalization to voters.
Advocates anticipate that several additional cannabis reform measures will appear on state ballots across the country this November. That’s in addition to a number of expected actions by state legislatures.
Photo courtesy of Mike Latimer.