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Mississippi Cannabis Legalization Hits An Unfortunate Snag

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Due to a publishing error, a Mississippi cannabis legalization proposal to make smokable cannabis legal wherever cigarette smoking is allowed in the state has been delayed. This unusual cannabis initiative would have been one-of-a-kind, but now, the state has a chance to push forward with full legalization and offer more opportunity for a growing industry or go backwards and not legalize at all. 

Now, instead of the originally passed Initiative 65, which was approved last November by Mississippi voters, Initiative 77 would let state residents decide whether to fully legalize cannabis, including cultivation, possession, and use.

If passed, Initiative 77 would add a 7 percent sales tax to cannabis products, so that the state would be able to benefit from the increased revenue that cannabis sales can bring. And, similar to what Initiative 65 would have done, smoking cannabis would become legal in all the areas in which smoking tobacco is legal. 

Where Did This Mississippi Cannabis Legalization Initiative Go Wrong?

So, why did this happen? Apparently, the Mississippi Secretary of State’s Office claims that the initial notice about the initiative didn’t appear in as many newspapers as are required by law, due to a mistake made by the Mississippi Press Association. While the Mississippi Press Association-affiliated Mississippi Press Services did distribute the notice to newspapers, it missed five on the list, and so all the publication that was legally required didn’t end up happening.

While this error could raise eyebrows of folks skeptical that Mississippi was looking for a way out of legalizing, the Mississippi Press Association is so far accepting full responsibility.

“We will work diligently to avoid this kind of oversight in the future,” said Laye Bruce, executive director of both the Mississippi Press Association and Mississippi Press Services.

Now, in order to make sure the same thing doesn’t happen again, the secretary of state has asked that the Mississippi Press Association make sure Initiative 77 will be published in five newspapers by the approaching deadline of May 13. 

Originally, voters could choose to back Initiative 65 and Initiative 65A, which were introduced as a way to push Mississippi cannabis legalization. Voters could choose one or the other, or back both. Initiative 65 would have tasked the Mississippi State Department of Health with controlling the medical cannabis program. It would have let patients with serious medical conditions access medical cannabis, as long as they got a doctor’s note and a medical card.

There was definitely some backing 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 only provided cannabis to terminally ill patients, and physicians, nurses and pharmacists would have to oversee the medicine being administered.

And, there was a lot of backlash against Initiative 65A, as many claimed it was only on the ballot to confuse voters, with the name being so similar to Initiative 65. It was also added without any additional guidance on how to begin the legalization process.  Initiative 65 received more support than 65A, including from Governor Tate, who backed the idea of a more robust medical cannabis program. 

Opponents of Initiative 65A argue it was only placed on the ballot to confuse voters, as it was done without many steadfast guidelines on how to begin the process of legalization.

Both initiatives included being written into the state’s constitution.

Many major figures in Mississippi came out against Initiative 65, including Governor Tate.

At the time, State Health Officer Dr. Tomas Dobbs claimed he was concerned that Initiative 65 was too lax, calling it the “Wild West” version of medical cannabis. He felt that it offered medical cannabis to “pretty much every community.” 

Now, due to the publishing error, Mississippi cannabis legalization, for both medical cannabis and smoking in cigarette-friendly areas, is delayed, but voters also have another chance to try and legalize cannabis in full, by backing Initiative 77. However, if it doesn’t gain enough support, there is a chance that no cannabis legislation will move forward in Mississippi.