For the past few months, cannabis legalization activists and lawmakers in Mississippi have been trying to one-up each other with different marijuana legalization measures and resolutions. In early January, then Governor Phil Bryant said that he was opposed to an activist-led medical marijuana initiative that qualified for the ballot and hinted that state legislators would introduce a revised, alternative reform measure. Quite recently, Mississippi lawmakers introduced a new medical marijuana resolution that would have represented a threat to the activist-driven reform Initiative 65.
The resolution was introduced by Sen. Kevin Blackwell and it called for the suspension of legislative rules so that lawmakers could draft and file a bill to legalize medical marijuana in the state. The resolution advanced through the Senate Rules Committee last week but to advocates’ relief did not make it onto the floor. Although the lieutenant governor who presides over the Senate could call back the resolution before October 10, insiders expect that if it were to happen, it would be to approve emergency legislation related to the coronavirus pandemic.
The introduction of this resolution represents one of the many conflicts of interest between lawmakers and marijuana legalization activists in recent months. In March, lawmakers introduced an alternative medical marijuana resolution that will appear alongside the activist-backed initiative on the ballot. However, advocates have argued that the only reason Mississippi lawmakers passed the alternative resolution is to undermine them by confusing residents and splitting votes. Aside from banning patients who aren’t terminally ill from smoking medical marijuana, the legislature-driven initiative is less specific than the advocate-led measure, leaving more room for interpretation. Should it pass, lawmakers will be able to create a more restrictive program.
Last month, lawmakers introduced another resolution that would have suspended legislative rules, allowing lawmakers to craft legislation in accordance with the legislature-approved constitutional amendment that’s on the ballot. Although it cleared the Rules Committee, it did not make it to the floor. Another measure introduced by lawmakers last week doesn’t mention the constitutional amendment at all, but it would have simply let lawmakers start working on legalizing medical cannabis.
According to Jaime Graham, Communications Director for Mississippians for Compassionate Care, the group behind the legalization initiative, a marijuana business owner based in Arkansas orchestrated the legislature-led resolution introduced in March. “He hired Mississippi lobbyists and twisted arms in Jackson to design a program that would allow him to dominate the medical marijuana industry here in Mississippi.”
“It’s an attempt to exploit patients in Mississippi with debilitating medical conditions like cancer, seizures and multiple sclerosis, and to undermine the voices of 228,000 people who signed petitions to put Initiative 65 on the ballot for Mississippians to vote on in November.”
Experts say the whole marijuana industry, including companies like Sugarmade, Inc. (OTCQB: SGMD), will be relieved when Mississippi finally has a medical marijuana law that truly serves the needs of the residents and not those of selfish groups.
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