A support group for ballot initiative 48, an initiative in favor of legalizing marijuana, hosted a public signing event on the Square at the Lafayette County Courthouse Wednesday.
Petition organizer Kelly Jacobs, of Hernando, said the process of getting this initiative on the 2016 ballot requires the group to collect 21,443 signatures from registered voters in each of the five districts. The signatures will be verified by the circuit clerk.
Jacobs said she created this initiative because it was something that needed to be done for Mississippians.
“I’ve never smoked marijuana,” Jacobs said. “I have no interest in smoking marijuana, but nobody was writing the initiative. Young Mississippians said to me they were not voting because this was not on the ballot.”
Jacobs said ballot initiative 48 was drafted to provide medicinal help and economic growth rather than for recreational use.
“Most people really focus on that,” she said. “It’s like they have no consideration of people who really need this for medicine, especially our troops.”
Jacobs said in Mississippi, there is a high percentage of veterans who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder. The Veterans Administration has agreed that cannabis can be prescribed to those suffering with PTSD.
“There are lots of people, who for health reasons want to be able to try it and not risk jail,” she said.
Jacobs created a Facebook page with the Colorado initiative posted on the website and she needed help making an initiative that is unique for Mississippi. She said they have created the framework so legislators will know the intent of the Mississippi people.
“We want to regulate cannabis like alcohol,” Jacobs said. “We want industrial hemp legalized, and we want the governor to pardon all nonviolent cannabis offenders.”
Jacobs said they are having difficulty getting signatures in District 2, which is located in the Delta. She said the community, made up mostly of black residents, fears that signing these documents is a trap.
“Not everyone wants to sign it because they are afraid for many reasons,” Jacobs said. “There are all kinds of intimidation going on.”
Susan Watkins, assistant to Jacobs, said her main role in the ballot initiative was assisting in drafting legal papers. Her involvement stems from her support of the state’s agricultural industry. She thinks industrial hemp could provide many market areas for farmers.
“It’s a very useful crop,” Watkins said. “I think it would rescue the Mississippi Delta from the grinding poverty.”
Watkins said the group will continue to go to county jails to register inmates to vote and to collect signatures from those in support of the initiative.
She thinks Mississippi jails have a large amount of people incarcerated for nonviolent cannabis offenses.
Robert Lucas, a sophomore student at The University of Mississippi and member of Team Legalize, said there are many reasons why he supports this initiative.
“We have demonized a plant,” Lucas said. “I don’t think that’s right, and it does not make any sense as a societal perspective.”