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Competing medical marijuana initiative could kill any chance to change the law, critics say

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(Photo by Thayne Tuason CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=66310058)

Advocates for allowing the use of medical marijuana in Mississippi say that Republican legislators are deliberately attempting to confuse voters.

Mississippians for Compassionate Care gathered more than 228,000 signatures to put Initiative 65 on the November ballot to give voters the opportunity to legalize the use of medical marijuana. The initiative would ask the question “Should Mississippi allow qualified patients with debilitating medical conditions, as certified by Mississippi licensed physicians, to use medical marijuana?”

Yesterday, the state House of Representatives passed a bill to put a slightly different initiative on the ballot. That initiative, as outlined in HCR 39, would read as follows: “Shall Mississippi establish a program to allow the medical use of marijuana products by qualified persons with debilitating medical conditions?”

Advocates for the original initiative say there’s no reason for the second initiative other than to confuse voters and split the votes, which would kill both initiatives. To pass, an initiative would need 40% of the total votes cast.

“If this passes, there will be two initiatives on the ballot in November on medical marijuana,” Ocean Springs Mayor Shea Dobson told WXXV. “The first one will be the one that we got all the signatures for and the second one will be this competing amendment. If neither one of them get the required votes to pass, then they will both die, and then Mississippi will not have medical marijuana—which is their real goal.”

Backers of the new initiative say their bill has a better program for legalizing medical marijuana in the state.

After a heated debate on the House floor, the resolution for the competing ballot initiative passed 72-49.

Mississippi is one of about 10 states where marijuana use remains illegal for all purposes, although possession penalties for first-time offenders have been reduced to a fine instead of jail time.

The resolution now goes to the Mississippi Senate.

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