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Medical Marijuana for Mississippi? It’s Now Up to the Voters to Decide

By Anna Grace Usery

Should Mississippians with debilitating illnesses be able to ingest doctor-prescribed marijuana legally? It’s now up to the state to decide come November 2020.

A pro-medical marijuana group named Mississippians for Compassionate Care, who was seen in Oxford last fall requesting signatures of support, is behind the proposed vote. After turning in 105,686 certified signatures from Mississippi-registered voters to former Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann in September, the pro-medical marijuana group solidified the needed number of signatures to put Ballot Initiate 55 on the ballot during the general election.

“We have seen overwhelming support throughout the entire state of Mississippi,” said Jamie Grantham, communications director for the Medical Marijuana 2020 campaign. “We collected more than 6,000 signatures in Lafayette County.”

Though important, the signatures only got the issue on the ballot. It didn’t provide the state with proposed rules and regulations for growing, administering, validating and monetizing medical marijuana. That’s when Oxford’s own CBD expert stepped up to help the legislature clarify. 

Tony Barragan, owner of Hempville CBD in Oxford, was a leading force behind hashing out the regulations and details, even before it was approved for the ballot. Barragan was contacted via email by state representative Joel Bomgar, a District 58 representative in the Mississippi Legislature to be on a planning panel called the Strategic Round Table. They met in Jackson in early November to discuss regulations. According to Barragan, the panel included doctors, lawyers, state representatives and even dispensary business owners from Oregon and Arkansas. 

The proposed initiative measure they developed outlines in detail the specific parameters of the implementation of medical marijuana. Here are the big points:

-Medical marijuana would only be available to those who have been diagnosed with a debilitating medical condition including:
cancer, epilepsy or other seizures, Parkinsons’s disease, Huntington’s disease, muscular dystrophy, multiple sclerosis, cachexia, post-traumatic stress disorder, HIV, AIDS, chronic or debilitating pain, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, glaucoma, agitation of dementias, Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, sickle-cell anemia, autism with aggressive of 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 to those herein enumerated and for which a physician believes the benefits of using medical marijuana would reasonably outweigh potential health risks.

-To obtain medical marijuana, an identification card is needed
It is a document prescribed by and issued by the department, which identifies a person as a qualified patient or caregiver or officer, owner, operator, employee, contractor or agent of a medical marijuana treatment center. Cards are renewable but shall not have an expiration term longer than 12 months.

– It would be unlawful to smoke medical marijuana and public, and, if caught, could be punished by a fine not exceeding $100.

Physicians with valid Doctor of Medicine or Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine degrees and who are licensed by the Mississippi Board of Medical Licensure can prescribe medical marijuana.

Licensed medical marijuana treatment centers—where patients would obtain their prescription—would be licensed and regulated by the state and will not be within 500 feet of a pre-existing school, church, or licensed child care center. Centers cannot issue more than 2.5 ounces of medical marijuana by weight.

-Final rules and regulations could be adopted no later than July 1, 2021. Identification cards and treatment center licenses could be issued no later than Aug. 15, 2021.

According to the proposed initiative, the revenue generated by the medical marijuana program in Arizona was used as research for Mississippi’s projections. Drawing from those numbers, research suggests Mississippi has the opportunity to generate $6 million annually from medical marijuana.

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