Mississippi voters today approved a ballot initiative that allows patients with a physician-certified "debilitating medical condition" to use marijuana for symptom relief. With 56 percent of precincts reporting, more than two-thirds of voters favored legalizing medical marijuana, and nearly three-quarters preferred Initiative 65, the more liberal of two options.
Gov. Tate Reeves, a Republican, opposed Initiative 65, as did the American Medical Association and the Mississippi State Medical Association. Supporters included Mike Espy, a Democratic candidate for the U.S. Senate. A poll conducted in May put public support for the measure at 57 percent, including respondents who said they supported both Initiative 65 and Initiative 65A, a more restrictive measure that would have authorized state legislators to write the rules for medical use.
Initiative 65 applies to patients with "cancer, epilepsy or other seizures, Parkinson's disease, Huntington's disease, muscular dystrophy, multiple sclerosis, cachexia, post-traumatic stress disorder, positive status for human immunodeficiency virus, acquired immune deficiency syndrome, chronic or debilitating pain, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, glaucoma, agitation of dementias, Crohn's disease, ulcerative colitis, sickle-cell anemia, autism with aggressive or self-injurious behaviors, pain refractory to appropriate opioid management, spinal cord disease or severe injury, intractable nausea, severe muscle spasticity, or another medical condition of the same kind or class." With a doctor's approval, qualified patients will be allowed to obtain marijuana from state-licensed "treatment centers" and possess up to 2.5 ounces at a time.
The initiative charges the Mississippi Department of Health with licensing and regulating treatment centers, whose sales will be taxed at the standard 7 percent state rate. The deadline for writing regulations is July 1. The health department is required to start issuing ID cards to patients and licenses to treatment centers by August 15.
On Sunday, Gov. Reeves, who says he is "against efforts to make marijuana mainstream," warned that Initiative 65 would give Mississippi "the most liberal weed rules in the US," with "pot shops everywhere" and "no local authority." The measure allows local governments to impose zoning rules and regulations on dispensaries but says they "shall be no more restrictive" than the requirements for pharmacies.