This November, Mississippi residents may be able to vote on the legalization of medical marijuana.
The petition was submitted to the secretary of state’s office on Sept. 4 by the Medical Marijuana 2020 campaign. The campaign is sponsored by the Mississippians for Compassionate Care political group, which centers around chronic medical conditions in the state.
According to the Millsaps College/Chism Strategies January survey, 67% of the Mississippi public favors the initiative, including Tony Barragan, the owner of Oxford’s Hemp Ville CBD store.
“It’s inevitable,” said Barragan. “You know, people want this bill passed because there’s a need for medical marijuana. Whether it be for pain, anxiety, depression, relaxation, seizures, you know, whatever the ailment may be.”
Jamie Grantham, Medical Marijuana 2020’s communications director, said, “I personally am very passionate about anything that helps people have a better quality of life, whether it be emotional, or mental, or spiritual or physical healing, anything at all.”
The National Institute of Health acknowledges that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved THC-based medications for patients with severe conditions such as cancer, epilepsy and AIDS, but states that further research needs to be conducted, particularly on the long-term effects for users.
Grantham explained that when people with debilitating conditions are suffering, it affects their families, their friends and their ability to live life fully. She said she is thankful to be part of the campaign and motivated by the group’s goal of “enabling people in Mississippi to have the same access that people in 33 other states have.”
She said that in the eyes of the campaign, Mississippi has not been slacking on the medical marijuana movement.
“We looked at other states, studied programs, people who implicated programs, as well as patients. It was really helpful to us, especially when the language was being drafted,” Grantham said.
The Medical Marijuana 2020 campaign needed to turn in 17,237 signatures from each of the five congressional districts, for a total of 86,185. Grantham said they surpassed the requirement by roughly 20,000 signatures.
“A lot of people have banded together and worked really, really hard across the whole state,” Grantham said.
Anna Moak, interim communications director and senior counsel of the secretary of state’s office, said, “We are in the process of reviewing and determining the number of signatures so as to file with the legislature on the first day of the 2020 session.”
Barragan’s Hemp Ville put the petition on the counter for customers to sign at checkout. The store sells hemp-based CBD, or cannabidiol, which is a natural compound found in cannabis plants, a category both hemp and marijuana falls under. However, marijuana plants contain higher concentrations of THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol, which is what creates a high. Hemp naturally contains less than 0.3% THC, according to healthline.com.
“CBD has some of the same great medical benefits as marijuana without the psychoactive effect,” said Barranger.
Barranger explained the customization of THC and CBD compounds that can be created in medicinal marijuana products is the foundation of his support.
“When it’s put together, it works for people with different ailments,” Barranger said. “It could be stage four cancer, you know, where it’s helping them completely diminish the growth of the cancer cell, or helping them with their pain, or increasing their appetite, helping them with the side effects of the chemotherapy. There’s a place for THC in all this stuff. It’s not just about getting high.”
Now that the petition is in the hands of the secretary of state, the Medical Marijuana 2020 campaign will focus on the conversation with the Mississippi public. The campaign’s goal will be “(explaining) what the program would look like in Mississippi, answering questions, and educating people.”
Beyond the assistance for those in need, one effect medical marijuana may bring is a potential bolstering of the state’s economy. Grantham said that while Medical Marijuana 2020 is entirely a healthcare initiative, medicinal cannabis could bring a new industry.
“The process by which medical marijuana would be grown, processed, tested and dispensed all is in Mississippi,” Grantham said.
All potentially licensed businesses would be federally required to be in the state, and Mississippi is an agricultural state, boding well for the hypothetical production of the cannabis plant. Grandtham went on to say that the Department of Health will be the one regulating the process, “(overseeing) every single facet of the program.”
In light of medical marijuana possibly being approved in Mississippi, it stands to question whether it may progress into recreational acceptance. Grantham said that any type of recreational program would be an entirely different endeavor, and a massive initiative.
“Out of the 33 states with medical marijuana programs, only 10 have gone further to have anything recreational,” said Grantham.
Barragan added, “I do not see a problem with medicinal marijuana. I (couldn’t) care less about recreational marijuana. But as far as medicinal, I think there’s a place for it. I really do.”
For now, Mississippians will have to wait and see whether medical marijuana will end up on their ballots. The secretary of state is still confirming the signatures and coming to a conclusion. Per Section 23-17-29, Mississippi Code Annotated, the initiative must receive over 40% of the total votes cast in the election.