/Medical marijuana campaign puts conservative backers in a ‘strange position’

Medical marijuana campaign puts conservative backers in a ‘strange position’

These 58 people include four Republican legislators, the president and editor of Mississippi Christian Living magazine, as well as the leaders of two of the most powerful conservative advocacy groups in Mississippi. They all support a new campaign that will put the question of legalizing medical marijuana on the 2020 state ballot. It seems that many of the same people who made Mississippi a red state could help make it a more green one. It may seem surprising that Mississippi conservatives would publicly endorse an organization that many associate with the far right, but those who have lent their support to the campaign claim it shouldn’t. It’s a shining example of liberty, freedom and democracy. According to Jon Pritchett (president and CEO, Mississippi Center for Public Policy), a conservative think-tank, “I don’t believe that the government should tell me what to put in my mouth.” An Ole Miss laboratory in Mississippi has already started to grow marijuana for federal use. It is not the first state to support medical marijuana. The Texas Tribune reported that Texas Republicans voted last month for medical marijuana to be a plank of their platform. However, this was still far from the Texas Democrats’ desire. They voted for full legalization in their party platform at their state convention. Last month, Oklahomans voted to legalize cannabis. They voted for Donald Trump by 65 percent, the second highest margin in the country. The most passionate, but surprising, segment of that state’s support was the evangelical Christians. Marilyn Tinnin (president of Mississippi Christian Living magazine, and one of the 58 members on the campaign’s steering board), said that “I think Christians get many bad raps.” People think that we are haters and against things. This is false. While I believe there is black and white everywhere, I also think there are many gray areas. “I think this is one those gray areas that has the potential to relieve pain and do something really great for people in the state suffering.” This is a crucial question for many Mississippians, and one the new Medical Marijuana 2020 campaign seeks to answer. Ashley Durval, mother to Harper Grace Durval and Citizens for Compassionate Care, registered the initiative. Harper Grace’s Law was passed by the legislature in 2014. It removes cannabidiol, which is not derived from marijuana but has the same psychotropic effects as marijuana, from the state’s list of controlled substances. Harper Grace, a child with rare epilepsy, was just 2 years old when the law was passed. Her mother claims that state regulations prevented Harper Grace, now six years old, from receiving the oil necessary to treat her condition. If this amendment is passed, it would relax those restrictions. Practically, we are talking about medical marijuana. We’re not talking recreational drug use. Pritchett stated that it seems like a simple decision. However, because marijuana scares people, people who are normally for these freedoms, but have experienced the negative effects of drug addiction, cannot disassociate the two. According to the campaign’s leader, people panicked when Mississippians attempted to vote for legalizing marijuana in 2015. To get an initiative on the Mississippi ballot, you need to collect the signatures from 100,000 registered voters. This includes 20,000 signatures from each congressional district. Kelly Jacobs, the initiative’s author, stated that she and her campaign workers encountered resistance from officials in dozens upon communities. She claimed that her campaign failed to gather enough signatures and that many of the ones collected were rejected by county clerks. Jacobs stated that Mississippi will not have a successful initiative on the ballot to legalize medical marijuana. Jacobs explained that the obstacles she faces today are the same ones she will face tomorrow. This is a conservative state. It is difficult to find 100,000 people who are willing to consent to (medical marijuana). Six voter initiatives have failed to reach the ballot since they were approved in 1990 as a way of amending the state constitution. Only two of them, eminent domain, and voter ID requirements, made it into state legislation. The Medical Marijuana 2020 campaign is different from the previous campaign in many ways. This one advocates for medical marijuana and not blanket legalization. The Secretary of State submitted a proposed amendment that would allow medical marijuana to be legalized only in certain circumstances and for specific medical conditions. These circumstances call for the Board of Medical Licensure, which will oversee doctors who prescribe medical marijuana. The entire process would be overseen and regulated by the state Department of Health, which would include issuing medical marijuana cards for patients and monitoring the treatment centers where they would receive the drug. A spokeswoman for the Mississippi State Department of Health stated that if the ballot measure passes, the agency would “comply with this constitutional measure to its best ability.” Many supporters believe the high level of regulation is what makes this proposal different from previous proposals. Joel Bomgar and other officials have done their best to properly regulate it. I hate the word regulate but it is a positive term. Tinnin, Mississippi Christian Living said that teenagers will not be able walk into a clinic without a prescription. Tinnin, like Pritchett or other conservatives speaking to Mississippi Today about medical marijuana, supports it partly because she believes that the government should not regulate the doctor-patient relationship. This proposed amendment is appealing because of the amount of regulation. Rep. Dana Criswell (R-Olive Branch) said that he supports legalizing marijuana, but struggles to reconcile his views on individual liberty and reducing government regulation. This issue has been a difficult one for me personally and politically. There is the idea that we are creating more government to pass this bill, which really bothers my conscience. Criswell stated that he spent much time discussing this issue with other members of the steering committee. He said that he has tried to vote against any government expansion. “But marijuana has such a negative connotation that this is the only way that I believe this can happen… So, I’m accepting some government controls although it keeps me awake at nights.” Bomgar believes that attaching names to the campaign signal to potential supporters that it’s safe and legal to support legalizing marijuana. It’s extremely valuable to the public that prominent state leaders have publicly signed up for the steering committee. Bomgar stated that medical marijuana is a topic that has arrived. Governor. Phil Bryant has posted on Facebook that he is opposed to the measure. He said: “I will vote ‘no’ if it makes it onto the ballot.” It would be strange to include pot in the equation, given all the advances in pharmaceutical medicine we have seen.” The organizers still have two more years to convince Gov. Bryant will join 30 states and the District of Columbia that have legalized medical marijuana. While the majority of these states are along the coasts and blue, nine of them voted for Donald Trump in 2016. There is no public data on Mississippians’ views regarding medical marijuana. However, in Texas, where Republicans control the state government, a Texas Tribune poll revealed that 84 percent support legalization of medical marijuana. A Quinnipiac University poll in April 2018 revealed that 93 percent of voters nationwide and 86 per cent of Republicans support legalization for medical marijuana. The Republican-led federal government is not in line with states that support legalization. Attorney General Jeff Sessions reversed some Obama Administration restrictions on recreational and medical cannabis. Criswell stated that the federal government should be led and controlled by the states. Criswell added, “This is an example where the states are leading, which will force the federal government into change.” It’s the right dilemma that we are facing and it’s something we should be asking. It is, however, a very strange situation.”_x000D