Mississippi leaders told voters not to legalize medical marijuana—they voted for it anyway

Mississippi leaders told voters not to legalize medical marijuana—they voted for it anyway
Nov
17
Tue

By Giacomo Bologna

Politicians didn't want it. Leaders in medicine, law enforcement and religion warned against it. Conservative talk radio railed against it. The Legislature, after years of inaction, offered an alternative.

Voters bucked that advice. They easily passed Initiative 65 on Nov. 3, amending the constitution and legalizing medical marijuana.

A program overseen by the state Department of Health will allow Mississippians with one of at least 22 medical conditions to buy the drug as early as August 2021.

Polling in recent years had indicated that Mississippians would support legalizing medical marijuana, but this election cycle exposed a chasm between Mississippi voters and leaders when it comes to marijuana.

"Most non-stoners say we should be careful & deliberate," Gov. Tate Reeves tweeted days before the election. "Initiative 65 is the opposite. Experts say it would mean the most liberal weed rules in the U.S.! Pot shops everywhere — no local authority."

Jim Perry, a businessman who was appointed to the State Health Board by former Gov. Phil Bryant, went on Supertalk radio days before the election and listed some of the organizations coming together to oppose Initiative 65.

"It's not just the medical associations," Perry said. "It's the oncology societies, the pediatricians. It's every medical society that I've never heard of has come out and said this is the wrong way; to the Realtors, to the municipal league, to the sheriffs, to the police chiefs, to the Baptist convention, on and on. It's having an effect. It's getting the word out."

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