Espy stated in an email that he supports Initiative 65 “because it provides a wellregulated treatment option for those who need it.” “Medical marijuana can offer relief for many Mississippians suffering from nausea during chemotherapy, arthritis and the effects of autoimmune diseases, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), chronic pain, anxiety, and other conditions.” Espy made the comment in an emailed statement. This is Espy’s first confirmation to any news organization about why he supports Initiative 65. The initiative was submitted September 2019 by its supporters and will be on the November ballot. To challenge Republican Senator Cindy Hyde Smith and become the first Democratic senator from 1989, Espy will use a four to one cash advantage. Hyde-Smith’s campaign didn’t respond to a request for comment about her position on medical marijuana. Hyde Smith, however, stated to WJTV that she opposed Initiative 65 and believes that marijuana regulation should remain in the hands of the federal government. She stated that “we need first and foremost something that the (Mississippi] Legislature can control.” “And if municipalities and cities don’t want it in their communities, they should have some local control. Espy’s support for the program could give him a boost, as he likely needs to draw in all possible voting blocs in order to win in November. In a recent poll, he was within the margin of error for the match against Hyde Smith. It is hard to gauge how much support he would gain by moving on one issue this year due to national trends, especially in Mississippi where there are several initiatives on the ballot. There is some research and thought nationwide that supports the notion that Democratic candidates could increase youth turnout using marijuana as a wedge topic. However, the data is not conclusive. Particularly, medical marijuana has been receiving increasing bipartisan support across the country. In Mississippi, Initiative 65 has been supported by both right-leaning and libertarian groups since its inception. Therefore, there is no guarantee that a turnout bump will bring only Democrats to the polls. Mississippi voters will also be asked to approve a state flag design that does not include the Confederate emblem for the first time since it was created in over 126 years. Another ballot initiative would eliminate the state-level electoral college. There is also the matter of who will become president. Kendall Witmer is the Espy campaign’s communications chief. She said that national issues such as the presidential election, COVID-19 pandemic and local issues like medical marijuana, the flag, and efforts to repeal what critics call a Jim Crow-era state election rule, are all working together to encourage young people to vote. READ MORE: Although medical marijuana will be on November’s ballot, it’ll prove confusing. Jarrius Adams, president of Young Democrats of Mississippi, stated that he has been pushing Initiative 65 but many people he meets don’t know if one or two measures are on the ballot. He also said that he had been pitching Initiative 65 to voters as the first step to legalizing marijuana in the country. He admitted that it was difficult to sell. He said that there hasn’t been nearly as much buzz. “I’m sure that if it were legalizing marijuana that would have been a different story. But yes, for sure medical marijuana has been a challenge for people to get out for that single reason.” Both Washington and Colorado saw huge youth voter increases in 2012 when they had legalization initiatives put on the ballot. According to marijuana experts, candidates seeking to boost Democrats this year need to say nothing more than “President Donald Trump.” One would expect that there would be more enthusiasm on the Democratic side. But, this election, we are witnessing huge amounts of Democratic enthusiasm. This is likely, you know., hatred for Trump,” Nathaniel Gurien said, a cannabis expert who works within the marijuana banking industry. The question is: Will cannabis increase the number people who are Democratic to show up? “I would think no, because they will show up anyway,” but in Mississippi, both pro- and anti Initiative 65 advertisements have increased in frequency. The issue is wildly popular according to what little polling exists. A poll by FM3 research in California showed that more than 80% Mississippians support medical marijuana as a principle. READ MORE: Mississippi’s medical marijuana rhetoric grows as the November election approaches. The “Yes on Initiative 65” tag was included in the Mississippi Democratic Party platform for this year. Espy’s campaign claims that it has appeared on some of Espy’s door hangers since last month. However, Espy had not publicly explained his reasons for supporting the measure. This week’s comment, shared with Mississippi Today, shows a shift in Espy’s public stance over the past two years. The former U.S. secretary for agriculture, September 2018, stated that he was open and willing to consider medical marijuana as a cold-hard cash crop. We need more revenue for Mississippi. “So, just like legalized gambling, I’d be open for reviewing the facts and economic estimates of the state’s revenue,” Espy said to the Jackson Free Press in that interview. He also voiced concern over safety for those who use marijuana, echoing an argument that many opponents have used. He said that there are many studies showing how marijuana can still affect your ability to function when you’re under its influence. “I would only have to know if it is safe and if there are financial benefits to the state,” he stated. This hesitation was not evident in his public position this week. Espy seems to now view medical marijuana first and foremost as a healthcare issue. His spokeswoman said that while few people have asked him about his position on the issue, Espy has been meeting with constituents to discuss his support for Initiative 65. Espy stated in the statement that he believes that Mississippi should allow Mississippians to receive safe treatment for any illness or disorder. Espy’s support for the initiative makes him one the few Senate candidates who are in close races in states where a marijuana-related ballot issue is up for vote. The future of the Senate will be decided in two other tight races. Both are taking place in states that have legalized marijuana. After having had functioning medical marijuana programs, Arizona and Montana will be voting on legalizing adult-use marijuana. In both cases, however, Democratic Senate candidates have been silent or timid in their endorsements. Other Democrats in Mississippi have not spoken out on the matter. Other Democrats in Mississippi have remained silent on the issue. Rep. Bennie Thompson is the state’s sole Democrat in Washington. He stated in September that he would rather stay away from it than “I’m leaving the matter up to the public.” Antonia Eliason is a University of Mississippi School of Law Professor who is running against Trent Kelly, the Republican. Unprompted, she told Mississippi Today that she wanted to legalize marijuana and free those who are incarcerated for cannabis-related offenses. Some politicians may be hesitant to support what is in Mississippi’s instance legalizing medical marijuana for serious conditions. John Hudak, a Brookings Institution expert on marijuana, stated that he has seen increased enthusiasm among young people for legalizing cannabis. Hudak stated that this is not necessarily true for medical initiatives. Hudak said that medical cannabis, given its widespread support and the fact that it is not something that drives liberals in any disproportionate way relative with conservatives, will likely see similar youth effects. This may explain why Mississippi medical marijuana advocates are trying to play both. This week, Trump campaign Director Michael J. Glassner wrote a cease-and-desist letter to Jamie Grantham (spokesman for Mississippians For Compassionate Care), objecting to flyers asking voters to “JOIN PRESIDENT TRUMP” in support of legalizing medical marijuana in Mississippi. There are two competing ballot initiatives that will be up for a vote. One, Initiative 65, was added by voters signing a petition. The other, Initiative 65A, which was added by lawmakers. The second measure would restrict medical marijuana use to terminally ill patients. It also gives the state legislature more control over how to set up a medical program. Daniel Newhauser, a Washington, D.C.-based freelance journalist, has published work in The Atlantic, The Daily Beast, National Journal, Politico, Roll Call, VICE News, and many other publications. You can find him on Twitter @dnewhauser.