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Mississippi State Board of Health comes out in strong opposition to medical marijuana initiative



(Photo by Thayne Tuason - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0)

The Mississippi State Board of Health today released a resolution in opposition to the upcoming medical marijuana ballot initiative.

Click to enlarge the image.

The initiative will be on the November 2020 ballot for the voters to decide if medical marijuana will be allowed to be sold with a doctor’s recommendation in the state. To date, 33 states have passed legislation allowing its sale, and 11 states allow recreational use of marijuana as well.

Advocates for the resolution say that medical marijuana will help numerous people suffering from debilitating medical conditions in a legal and safe manner. If approved by the voters, patients who are suffering will be able to obtain medical marijuana after they are examined by Mississippi-licensed physicians and certified to use medical marijuana.

The list of 22 diseases for which medical marijuana could be recommended includes epilepsy, Parkinson’s disease, muscular dystrophy, multiple sclerosis, post-traumatic stress disorder, HIV, Crohn’s disease, ALC and sickle-cell anemia.

“We are disappointed in the Health Department’s position,” said Medical Marijuana 2020 spokeswoman Jamie Grantham.  “We have had multiple positive meetings leading up to this point.”

“Our research shows that 77 percent of Mississippi voters favor this initiative,” she added.

See more about the ballot initiative at

In the resolution, printed in full below, the board expressed its strong opposition to the initiative.


Whereas the Mississippi State Board of Health is charged with formulating policy regarding public health matters; and

Whereas the Mississippi State Board of Health conducted a special Board Meeting in December 2019 for the purposes of understanding issues surrounding medical marijuana, and information was presented by representatives from Medical Marijuana 2020, the Mississippi State Medical Association and the University of Mississippi Institute of Pharmaceutical Sciences; and

Whereas medical evidence to date demonstrates that chemical constituents of cannabis (marijuana), cannabidiol and THC, have numerous potential medical uses, with four cannabis-based compounds that have currently undergone FDA review and which are available by prescription (prescription formulations of cannabidiol and THC), used for the treatment of certain seizure disorders and anorexia/nausea respectively, including patients afflicted with AIDS and Cancer; and

Whereas Marijuana is a Schedule I drug and illegal under federal law; and

Whereas numerous states have made non-pharmaceutical marijuana products available for either medical or recreational uses. States permitting medical use only have wide variability in regulatory oversight. Many do not allow smoking of raw product or have other restrictions on mechanisms of consumption; and

Whereas there are numerous known harms from the use of cannabis products including addiction, mental illness, increased accidents, and smoking-related harms; and

Whereas there is not a clearly defined nor FDA approved “Medical Marijuana.” No federal insurance or other health insurance provider payments are available for its purchase; and

Whereas a ballot initiative has been introduced that will allow the public to vote on the legalization of medical marijuana in November of 2020 in Mississippi; and

Whereas the proposed amendment to the Mississippi State Constitution amendment would allow the use of marijuana for a very broad number of medical indications including such vague reasons as pain management, there would be no ability to restrict the mechanisms of consumption (i.e., edibles, combustible smoking), there would be no ability to control for the concentration of THC, or the proportion of THC to CBD, and any subsequent changes to the components of this amendment would have to occur through ballot measure rather than changes to state statute, and these products are not FDA approved, do not have standard dosing per unit of consumption, and are not supported by rigorous scientific evidence to support the claimed health benefits; and

Whereas, the proposed amendment would assign responsibilities to the Mississippi State Department of Health far beyond the scope and mission of the Agency, including oversight of agricultural production of marijuana, oversight of marijuana product processing and tax collection; and

Whereas, the consumption of any combustible inhaled product is harmful to individual health; and

Whereas, routine marijuana consumption has numerous known harms and is contrary to the mission of public health; and

Whereas the Ballot initiative would require the Mississippi State Department of Health to oversee a medical marijuana program that is beyond the capacity of the Department and would seriously harm the function of the Agency; and

Whereas the Mississippi State Board of Health does not believe it should be able to set tax rates and spend money without legislative authorization or oversight; and

Whereas the proposed ballot measure is a constitutional amendment, and as such is not subject to the oversight and management of the legislature and the Governor’s office; and any required changes to the proposed amendment would require additional ballot measures, rendering needed changes essentially impossible to achieve; and

Whereas Cannabis-based products have only four FDA approved prescriptions for existing medical indications and additional uses for cannabis products should be validated through scientific study and approved by regulatory authorities such as the FDA;


The Mississippi State Board of Health expresses its strong opposition to the Medical Marijuana 2020 Ballot Initiative; and


that this Resolution be spread upon the minutes of the Mississippi State Board of Health and that copies of this Resolution be distributed to the members of the Mississippi Legislature and to the public.



Free helpline available for Medicare beneficiaries



Leaders of Merit Health River Region recently announced the availability of a toll-free helpline designed to help Medicare beneficiaries select a health plan that fits their needs and budget.

The free helpline connects callers with licensed agents who can assist in comparing traditional Medicare, Medicare Advantage, Supplement and Prescription plans, and then facilitate enrollment in the plan selected. Through this program it will be easier for Medicare beneficiaries to find a plan that is best for them during Medicare annual enrollment from Oct. 15 through Dec. 7. Licensed insurance agents are available at no cost or obligation to help consumers find a Medicare plan that meets their health care needs.

Local consumers can access the helpline at 855-583-2003, Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. EDT, or online at

“Consumers are bombarded with confusing messages from competing health plans and options — and this is especially true for those just turning 65 and becoming eligible for Medicare for the first time,” said Ben Richaud, chief executive officer of Merit Health River Region. “This helpline is a one-stop resource for insurance information, so individuals can be confident in the selections they make.”

MedicareCompareUSA is dedicated to helping consumers make this important insurance decision.

Not owned or managed by any Medicare insurance company, MedicareCompareUSA’s mission is to provide individuals the unbiased information they need while simplifying the enrollment process.

In addition to providing assistance throughout the plan application and enrollment process, agents of MedicareCompareUSA can provide an annual review of an enrollee’s Medicare coverage during Medicare’s enrollment period. This often includes assisting members affected by Medicare plan network changes that sometimes occur. Doing so assures that beneficiaries have the information they need to proactively select a plan that best meets their specific needs, preferences and budget.

Richaud points out that Merit Health is not in-network with all insurance options or health plans, and contractual relationships may change over time. If a patient enrolls with a health plan that does not include the hospital in the network, their care and relationships with their doctors could be affected.

“Members of our community have been entrusting us to be their health care partner for many years, and that’s a responsibility and honor we don’t take lightly,” Richaud said. “This helpline will help those on Medicare make an informed decision regarding their insurance options at this important time in their life. We urge all eligible consumers to take advantage of this free service.”

Traditional Medicare and the Medicare Advantage plans offered by Allwell, Cigna, Clover Health (new in 2021), Humana, Magnolia, Shared Health (new in 2021), United Healthcare and WellCare all allow consumers covered by these plans full access to in-network medical care and procedures at the Merit Health hospitals and employed physician clinics.

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MSDH Office of Tobacco Control receives two awards for smokefree efforts



The Mississippi State Department of Health’s Office of Tobacco Control received two awards from the American Nonsmoker’s Rights Foundation: the Smokefree Air Challenge award and the Smokefree Air Challenge E-Cigarettes award.

The awards were presented at the ANR annual Smokefree Indoor Air Challenge and Voices for Smokefree Air awards ceremony.

The virtual awards ceremony was established by ANR to acknowledge and recognize states that excel in passing 100% smokefree provisions in workplaces, restaurants and bars. Mississippi has 171 smokefree cities with the passage of comprehensive smokefree air ordinances, 137 of which have ordinance that include restrictions on electronic cigarettes.

“The smokefree air policies implemented by these cities will protect all employees and customers in businesses and other public places from the harmful effects of secondhand smoke,” said Amy Winter, director of the Office of Tobacco Control at MSDH. “There is no safe level of exposure to secondhand smoke.”

In 2019, 14 Mississippi cities passed comprehensive smokefree air ordinances. At this time, 36% of Mississippi’s population is protected from the harmful effects of secondhand smoke and e-cigarettes.

“The adoption of these smokefree air ordinances by cities across Mississippi is an important step in improving our state’s overall health status,” Winter said. “We hope this activity at the local level demonstrates the widespread public desire for a comprehensive statewide policy.”

For information and resources about the dangers of e-cigarettes and tobacco products, visit For help with quitting visit, or call the Mississippi Tobacco Quitline at 1-800-QUIT-NOW.

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MS Health Department emphasizes importance of flu vaccines



(Photo by by LuAnn Hunt from Pixabay)

Seasonal influenza vaccinations are now available for children and qualifying adults at all Mississippi State Department of Health county health departments. Flu vaccination is recommended for everyone 6 months old and older as the best protection against the flu.

“We recommend that all Mississippians get their flu shots every year, but especially this year with COVID-19. We don’t want to risk overwhelming our hospitals,” said MSDH State Epidemiologist Dr. Paul Byers in a statement.

Byers said flu season can occur as early as November and as late as March in Mississippi, but usually peaks anywhere from December through February.

Individual flu cases are not reported to MSDH, but the agency monitors flu activity through the ILI System, made up of health care providers in Mississippi who report the percentage of patients with flu-like symptoms to a statewide database. Providers participating in the system also submit respiratory samples for flu testing to the MSDH lab. State health officials use this information to determine the presence and spread of flu throughout the state.

“We recommend getting vaccinated now before we reach peak flu activity. Influenza vaccine is especially important for young children, pregnant women, those over 65 and those with underlying health problems,” Byers said. “Flu vaccination is the best way to protect both children and adults from serious complications such as hospitalization, and in many cases, death.”

Those 18 and under who are eligible for the Vaccines for Children program can receive a flu vaccination for $10. Insurance, Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance Program is accepted for children’s flu shots. A list of all VFC providers can be found at

Adults who are underinsured or uninsured and who meet certain high-risk criteria qualify for an adult flu vaccination at MSDH county health department clinics. Flu shots for insured adults are now widely available through private physicians, pharmacies and retail centers.

Flu symptoms include fever, cough, sore throat, muscle and body aches and fatigue. Most people recover from the flu without complications, but nationwide there are up to 200,000 hospitalizations from flu each year.

While vaccination is the best protection, basic infection control measures can also reduce the spread of flu and should be taken whether individuals are vaccinated or not. These measures include covering your mouth when coughing and sneezing, staying at home when you or your children are sick and washing your hands frequently. Wearing a face covering in public places offers additional protection against the flu.

Please call your local county health department to make an appointment for your vaccination.

For Vicksburg and Warren County residents, the Warren County Health Department is located at 807 Monroe St. in Vicksburg, and it is open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Call 601-636-4356 for more information.

To locate other county health department clinics or for more information on flu, visit the MSDH website.

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