Commissioner of Agriculture and Commerce Andy Gipson was joined at the State Capitol today by sheriffs from all across the state to share their opposition to Initiative 65, the medical marijuana initiative on the November 2020 ballot.
According to Gipson, the initiative is a seven page amendment to the state constitution that actually takes liberties from Mississippians. One issue he finds with the language is that there is no oversight from the Legislature, the executive branch or law enforcement – only the Mississippi Department of Health.
“We have never in our state put anything under the total and complete control of an unaccountable agency like the Mississippi State Department of Health,” said Gipson.
Gipson does not believe if the people of Mississippi truly read and understood the amendment they would vote for the initiative. Other reasons Gipson cites are lack of local control over zoning and location of dispensaries, inability for the Legislature to tweak the program if needed, and where in which the marijuana will be grown.
“I am sensitive to the needs of people who have family members who are suffering and hurting because of chronic pain. We should never overlook that. For those who have those same sensibilities and concerns there is another option in Initiative 65A,” said Gipson. However, he does admit he will be voting no on both initiatives.
Alternative Initiative 65A would be Legislature run.
When it comes to who will grow the marijuana, Gipson speculates that the lack of language in Initiative 65 could mean it is brought in from another state. He says “follow the money” and implies that there is big money behind this initiative from invested parties.
Gipson also told gun owners to be wary of the initiative. Since marijuana is still classified as a Schedule 1 drug by the federal government, it could infringe on someone’s right to own or posses a firearm.
“I don’t think even the people who are supportive of medical cannabis, you won’t vote for it. You’ll just say ‘no’ to Initiative 65,” said Gipson.
Sheriff Mike Ezell from Jackson County spoke about the strain he believes the passage of medical marijuana will put on law enforcement and EMT’s.
“Right now alone in Jackson County we answer over 2,600 calls a month and patrol over 270,000 miles a month,” said Ezell. “If we’re doing that this is going to put another strain on our officers that are out there answering calls to serve and protect folks. There’s going to be some issues that come up with that, that I think our First Responders will see on a regular basis.”
He said he has been shown reports from other states that have passed similar laws on the misconduct among students that has risen since the access to medical marijuana became available.
Ezell said there may be other ways to do this, but Initiative 65 was not the way.
Senator Angela Hill said even Louisiana has a stricter program for medical marijuana than the Initiative 65 would create.
“First of all, Louisiana’s program is statutory, it can be amended as needed as the program works itself out. If this passes, it would take another change to the constitution. The Legislature would not be able to come in here and tweak the program,” said Hill.
The program would also not draw in additional tax dollars for roads, bridges, or education in Mississippi. The initiative puts any profit made back into the Health Department to run the program.
“Basically everyone I have explained Initiative 65 to that supports medical cannabis, they don’t like the way 65 is written,” said Hill. “If you are a sensible supporter and don’t want this wild west program, then vote 65A.”