Organizers and supporters of Initiative 65, known as the “We Are the 74,” gathered at the State Supreme Court building to show opposition to the recent decision by the Justices to invalidate the initiative.
Supporters heard from nearly a dozen speakers including doctors, patients and those who had benefitted from the use of medical cannabis in legal states.
Organizer of “We are the 74,” Donnie Collins, was first on stage. He began stating that he started the movement because of his wife who has an autoimmune disease and chronic migraines. Collins himself is a disable veteran with several spine injuries.
He said the decision made by the Supreme Court was a letdown for those who have been fighting for medical marijuana for years. Collins said that is when he sprang back in action to organize those who were passionately frustrated with the Legislature.
“Here’s a message to our Legislators and I want to make this very clear. I am not anti-legislation, I am not anti-government. I am anti-ignore your constituents. We vote these people in,” said Collins. “There are some really good guys and gals in our Legislature and some phenomenal people on the Supreme Court. But, there are some that need to go.”
Collins said those who are pushing for medical marijuana are not “stoners”; they are professionals, doctors, business owners, teachers, parents, law enforcement officers, veterans and more.
One professional to speak was Dr. David Allen of Moss Point. He is also responsible for submitting Initiative 77 this year which would legalize the growing and use of cannabis in the state. He is a former general and cardiovascular surgeon, and is a member of the Canabinoid Research Society.
Allen told the crowd that he believes that cannabis could be the most “amazing medicine on the face of the earth.” He estimated that, if legalized, it could invalidate many pharmaceutical drugs. Allen added that many medical students are not being taught information about the benefits of this medicine and he has made it a mission to encourage medical schools to do so.
“If you don’t like cannabis, you’re not going to like the future,” said Allan.
Allen has had a history of run-ins with the law regarding marijuana with indictments for drug charges related to cultivation and possession as well as witness tampering and bribery. Allen served 14 months in jail after being accused in 2009, before Mississippi prosecutors dropped all charges in 2012.
Initiative 77 is in a holding pattern while the Secretary of State’s office interprets whether or not initiatives will move forward.
Jasmine Cochran is a Mississippi native who was living abroad teaching when she found out her father was diagnosed with stage 3 lung cancer. Her mother has also suffered from Fibromyalgia for 20 years.
“I’m watching my hero, a mountain of a man struggle everyday to get from point A to point B,” said Cochran. “This man is a superhero and everyday I’m watching him struggle for his dignity and we could give it to him, with a plant.”
Cochran spoke of the division in Mississippi and the diverse culture that is represented in all of the residents. She said many times Mississippi comes to the polls completely divided but on this particular issue they were largely united with a desire for a medical marijuana program. She said when she voted in November, she voted for the health of her mom and her dad. She said she is just like everyone present that day that did the same for someone they love who is sick and in pain.
Cochran asked the crowd, “How is a state with so much promise always last?” She believes the real question is how much of that is due to leadership.
“If there is no special session, I hope once again that the 74 and more than the 74, will come together next time it is time to vote, and invite you [lawmakers] to leave,” said Cochran.
Several other speakers made their way to the state on Tuesday, including former candidate for House District 37 and leader of the Mississippi Libertarian party Vicky Rose.
The group’s name comes from the 74% of Mississippians they say voted for medical marijuana in Mississippi. While 74% of Mississippians did vote for some type of medical marijuana program, it is more accurate to say that 58% voted specifically for Initiative 65 based on the tally from the November 2020 election.
The primary goal of the group, as it appears from today’s rally, is to see Initiative 65 reinstated whether through legislation or the original ballot initiative. They also hope lawmakers will rectify the initiative process in Mississippi that has now been disrupted by the Supreme Court decision. Most believe the most effective way to do that is through a special session.
Governor Tate Reeves has not been clear as to whether or not he will call a special session. Both Lt. Governor Delbert Hosemann and Speaker of the House Philip Gunn have said they would be in support of one depending on the scope of the call.