Mississippi Lawmakers Confuse Medical Cannabis Vote with 2nd Ballot Initiative

Medical associations in Mississippi are encouraging voters to reject the activist-led Initiative 65 — which would legalize medical cannabis — in favor of Initiative 65A, which was approved for ballots by the legislature and would enact a less comprehensive cannabis program.

Full story after the jump.

The American Medical Association (AMA) and Mississippi State Medical Association are circulating a sample ballot encouraging voters to reject the activist-led medical cannabis initiative — Initiative 65 — in favor of Initiative 65A which was approved for ballots by the legislature, Marijuana Moment reports.

I65, which will appear on General Election ballots in November, is the product of a campaign led by Mississippians for Compassionate Care. The activists collected more than 105,000 signatures from each of the state’s five congressional districts in order to put the issue to voters. The proposal, a constitutional amendment, outlines 20 “debilitating conditions” that would qualify a patient for the program.

I65A would require lawmakers to enact a comprehensive medical cannabis program in the state. That plan, according to a Ballotpedia analysis, would only grant access for medical cannabis to terminally ill patients, require pharmaceutical-grade cannabis products, and leave tax rates, possession limits, and other details to the legislature.

Jamie Grantham, communications director for Mississippians for Compassionate Care, told Marijuana Moment that the issue “boils down to patients being able to have access to this through their physician.”

“They need to be able to have that conversation with them. If certain physicians don’t see a benefit to that, that’s fine. But lots of other physicians do, and that’s evidenced undeniably in the 34 other states with medical marijuana programs where patients are receiving relief.” — Grantham to Marijuana Moment

The question on ballots will appear as a two-step process. Mississippi voters who do not want medical cannabis legalized will vote “against both” but can still vote for the initiative they prefer in the event “approval of either” gets more votes than “against both.”

From Ballotpedia:

“Voting ‘either measure’ signals that the voter wants either Initiative 65 or Alternative 65A to pass, thereby allowing the use of medical marijuana by qualified patients. The voter must then proceed to the second question to choose their preferred version.

Voting ‘neither measure’ (against both) signifies that the voter wants neither Initiative 65 nor Alternative 65A to pass. The voter can then proceed to the second question to choose their preferred version in the event the ‘either’ option gets more votes.”

The medical associations are urging voters to vote against both but for I65A.

AMA President Susan Bailey called the advocate-led proposal “the wrong approach,” while MSMA President Mark Horne called the initiative “an effort focused on generating profits for an industry that has no ties to the medical or health care community in Mississippi.”

A recent FM3 poll found 81 percent of Mississippians support the reforms, including 89 percent of Democrats, 82 percent of independents, and 76 percent of Republicans.

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