Submitted by State Senator Chris McDaniel

“A large majority of Mississippians desire access to medical marijuana, and they want it under free-market conditions.”

I am not writing to support or condemn a statewide policy regarding the issue of medical marijuana. That ship has already sailed; the point is already decided. Seventy-four percent of Mississippians have set the process in motion, and politicians must not stand in their way.

Mississippi will have a medical marijuana program.

The legislative issue remaining is what kind of medical program Mississippi will implement. Will it be a process that respects a vibrant business model based on free-market ideals and fair competition, or will it be replete with heavy taxation, regulations, or other anti-competitive provisions?

As an elected official, it is essential to support the will of the people. Therefore, regardless of my opinion on the topic, we should honor that voice if the people speak. To believe otherwise would imply the legislature does not trust the people to govern themselves, which is a fundamental American proposition.

Years of legislative inaction on this matter led to increased frustration among Mississippians, so the proponents of initiative 65 rose to the occasion. They worked together to overcome the arduous tasks of gathering signatures, placing the issue on the ballot, and convincing the voters to support a medical marijuana program for our state.

Although grafting the program into the state’s Constitution was not my preferred approach, it was the only legal option remaining for the proponents of initiative 65. Had the legislature not been guilty of perpetually ignoring the issue for years, the impressive political feat realized by pro-65 forces would have been unnecessary. We should recognize them for their efforts, not find new ways to sabotage them.

That is why I am supporting the Citizens Alliance of Mississippi (“CAM”) and taking a pledge to support a program that does not institute licensing caps or to require a minimum net worth to operate in the industry.

While the issue of medical marijuana is complex, both fiscally and socially, there are severe medical conditions it may help treat. Other states have legalized it for certain illnesses, and it is clear Mississippians believe they should have access to similar treatments.

A large majority of Mississippians desire access to medical marijuana, and they want it under free-market conditions. We know this because a more restrictive alternative, 65A, was soundly rejected by the voters. But, unfortunately, a number of my colleagues are attempting to resurrect the “red tape” of taxation and other cumbersome regulations, which the people rejected at the ballot box.

The restrictive nature of other states has resulted in supply not being able to keep up with demand. In Arkansas, for instance, the number of licenses was artificially capped, resulting in years of litigation. This litigation resulted in a standstill, leaving businesses without the ability to start providing medicine to patients. As a result, two years went by after the people of Arkansas voted for medical marijuana without patients having access to the treatment they supported, not to mention the thousands of jobs that were left unfilled. After finally sorting out who could be awarded licenses, many contend the supply is still not up to demand.

This type of red tape is completely counter to economic reality and must not be condoned.

The more difficult and costly it is to enter the marketplace, the fewer small businesses and entrepreneurs will operate. Even as the market signals more supply is needed, government regulations keeping businesses from opening will result in patients needlessly suffering without access to their desired medication.

I have witnessed good-hearted officials become wrapped up in the political games of Jackson and Washington, not because they are bad people, but because the pressures of leadership and special interests are often heavy-handed and compelling.

Perhaps this time, we can all rise above it.

While medical marijuana bills are being drafted in the committee process, they still must come to the floor for a vote. At that stage, I hope my colleagues stand up for conservative principles and pass a bill founded on liberty and free-market traditions. In a majority Republican body, this shouldn’t be difficult. Ideally, the legislature would codify the medical marijuana program voters passed into law, a process that values competition and business growth.

In light of the above, taking the pledge is essential. It is a pro-business approach that respects the will of the voters. In short, CAM isn’t asking for much. They simply want the government to allow a market consistent with our campaign promises and the Republican Party’s political platform.

While specific accommodations are legally required for most medications, establishing a restrictive market beholden to special interests will only help the government pick winners and losers.

When government does that, we all lose.

###

Submitted by State Senator Chris McDaniel.