Cannabis legalization in Mississippi hits an unfortunate catch
Due to a publication error, a proposal to legalize cannabis in Mississippi to make smokable cannabis legal anywhere cigarette smoking is allowed in the state has been delayed. This unusual cannabis initiative would have been unique, but now the state has a chance to push for full legalization and provide more opportunities for a growing industry, or go backwards and not legalize at all.
Instead of the originally passed Initiative 65, which was approved by voters in Mississippi last November, Initiative 77 would now let citizens decide whether to fully legalize cannabis, including its cultivation, possession and use.
If passed, Initiative 77 would add a 7 percent sales tax to cannabis products to allow the state to take advantage of the higher revenues cannabis sales can bring. And similar to Initiative 65, cannabis smoking would become legal in all areas where tobacco smoking is legal.
Where did this Mississippi cannabis legalization initiative go wrong?
Why is that happend? Apparently, the Mississippi Secretary of State’s office alleges that the initial notice of the initiative did not appear in as many newspapers as required by law because of a mistake by the Mississippi Press Association. While Mississippi Press Services, affiliated with the Mississippi Press Association, distributed the notice to the newspapers, five were missing from the list and not all of the legally required publication took place.
While this mistake could raise the eyebrows of people skeptical that Mississippi is looking for a way out of legalization, so far the Mississippi Press Association takes full responsibility.
“We will work diligently to avoid these types of oversights in the future,” said Laye Bruce, executive director of both the Mississippi Press Association and Mississippi Press Services.
To make sure the same thing doesn’t happen again, the Secretary of State has asked the Mississippi Press Association to ensure Initiative 77 gets published in five newspapers by May 13th.
Originally, voters could choose Initiative 65 and Initiative 65A, which were launched to help legalize cannabis in Mississippi. Voters could choose one or the other, or support both. Initiative 65 would have tasked the Mississippi Department of Health with overseeing the medical cannabis program. It would have given patients with serious illnesses access to medical cannabis as long as they received a doctor’s letter and health card.
There was definitely some support for the initiative as more than 200,000 people in Mississippi signed a petition to put it on the ballot. Initiative 65A, on the other hand, would have made cannabis available only to terminally ill patients, and doctors, nurses and pharmacists would have to monitor the medicine being administered.
And there was a lot of backlash against Initiative 65A, as many claimed it was just on the ballot paper to confuse voters, with Initiative 65’s name being something similar. It was also added to the beginning of the legalization process with no additional guidance. Initiative 65 received more support than 65A, including from Governor Tate, who supported the idea of a more robust medical cannabis program.
Opponents of Initiative 65A argue that it was put on the ballot paper just to confuse voters, as it was done without many firm guidelines for starting the legalization process.
Both initiatives included inclusion in the state constitution.
Many important figures in Mississippi have spoken out against Initiative 65, including Governor Tate.
At the time, State Health Commissioner Dr. Tomas Dobbs said he was concerned that Initiative 65 was too lax and called it the “Wild West” version of medical cannabis. He felt it offered medicinal cannabis to “pretty much every community”.
Due to the publicity bug, the legalization of cannabis in Mississippi is delayed for both medical cannabis and smoking in cigarette-friendly areas, but voters also have another chance to fully legalize cannabis by supporting Initiative 77 If there isn’t enough support, there is a chance that no cannabis legislation will advance in Mississippi.