I was asked to support Initiative 65 last year and wasn’t given the full story behind this effort to legalize marijuana in Mississippi. I initially planned to vote for it, but after getting the rest of the story I will vote against Initiative 65 on November 3rd.

It sounded like a good idea; we all know people who have struggled with cancer and other diseases. We want to get them the help they need. I offered to let the group put my name on their leadership list.

When the marijuana group’s leader approached me, he convinced me this was only about helping really sick people, but it is now clear this is all about making money for the out-of-state marijuana industry.

I also strongly oppose putting this in our State Constitution and urge voters to reject Initiative 65 and make the marijuana industry come back and do this the right way next year.

There are a few ways to sniff out the truth that this is not about medicine, but all about selling marijuana in our beloved Mississippi. Money, products targeting children and a sweetheart deal on taxes and zoning for an industry bigger than the NFL.

First, follow the money. Approximately $5 million has been spent promoting the marijuana industry’s Initiative 65 in Mississippi, including big bucks directly from the out-of-state marijuana industry.

The Marijuana Leadership Campaign has given nearly half a million dollars to put 65 in our State Constitution. Their stated goal is “to regulate marijuana like alcohol” and they are partly funded by marijuana manufacturers and dispensaries in California and Colorado.

Another group called “Drug Policy Action” has given $125,000, while a man named Daniel Marks, who is in the recreational marijuana business in Illinois, has invested $40,000 in the Mississippi campaign.

Kampia Consulting has given $120,000. It’s led by a national marijuana legalization guru who has also advocated for the legalization of MDMA – the drug commonly known as “Ectasy”.

Joel Bomgar of Ridgeland is the biggest investor in bringing the marijuana industry to Mississippi; he has provided well over $1 million to the campaign and raised much of the money. Bomgar is a board member of NeWay Capital, an investor in marijuana companies via Arcview Group.

It’s also worth noting that Big Pharma and Big Tobacco are heavily invested and involved in the marijuana industry. The former CEO of Purdue Pharmaceutical, which brought us oxycontin, is the CEO of a marijuana company. The tobacco giant Altria made a $1.8 billion investment in the marijuana industry.

If this does not convince you this is not about medicine, then maybe this will…

Why do they insist on selling marijuana products such as “ring pots”, “gummy bears” and “pot tarts” clearly marketed to children?

The Initiative 65 spokesperson was asked this question at a public hearing and was unable to justify it. It should be clear she had no answer because this is all about a $14 billion industry cementing special protections in our State Constitution so the addiction-for-profit industry can make huge sums of money and pay no sales tax to the State or cities.

In addition, no local government can have any zoning restrictions about where pot shops can locate, including as close as 500 feet from schools and churches.

Usually, the side that spends the most money in a campaign wins on Election Day, but I am writing to urge you to stand up for Mississippi. You won’t be alone.

The Mississippi State Medical Association opposes Initiative 65, along with the associations representing the nurses, pediatricians, sheriffs, cities, Baptists, Pentecostals, Farm Bureau, realtors, police chiefs and the American Family Association.

I know there are many good people with good intentions who believe Initiative 65 is a good thing so people can get the medical care they need. We all want that, but this is the WRONG WAY to do this.

Please, let’s do this the right way next year. Vote against Initiative 65 on November 3rd.

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Clarke Reed is a businessman and long-time Republican leader who lives in Greenville, MS.