“We’re Very, Very Close”: Medical Marijuana Creeping Toward Mississippi, as Residents Lose Patience
Magnolia State residents are demanding the right to get a Mississippi Marijuana Card, just as their politicians are almost ready to give that right to them.
Protests and rallies have popped up throughout the state since the Mississippi Supreme Court overturned the state’s ballot initiative procedure, invalidating the medical marijuana initiative that voters overwhelmingly supported in November 2020.
And at the same time, legislators have been following Governor Tate Reeves’ mandate to craft a medical marijuana law to replace the one the Court scuttled. Reeves has said he would convene a special session of the Legislature to pass the bill once state lawmakers had hashed out the big picture details.
And now, it appears voter demand and governmental response are finally going to converge.
“We are the 74”: Medical Marijuana’s Overwhelming Popularity in Mississippi Gives Advocates a Rallying Cry
A mere 11 days after the Court’s ruling, protesters assembled in Jackson outside the Governor’s Mansion, chanting slogans such as “Special session now!” and “We are the 74!”
The latter slogan is a reference to the 74% of Mississippians, depending on how you do the math, who voted for medical marijuana in the 2020 election.
No matter the exact number, an overwhelming majority of Mississippians did support the legalization initiative, and in the time since the number has gone from a rallying cry to the name of a Facebook group of 14,000+ medical marijuana supporters.
The “We are the 74” chant has been heard at subsequent rallies ever since, as medical marijuana advocates have attempted to keep the pressure on Mississippi politicians by reminding them just how much of the electorate they’re risking alienating.
Protestors Want Mississippi’s Medical Marijuana Market to be Fair, Accessible
The We are the 74 group is not only concerned with getting the relief that only medical marijuana can offer.
Speaking to the Desoto Times-Tribune last month at a rally in Hernando, the president of the group’s board, Austin Calhoun, of Puckett, explained the group’s other demands for the state’s medical marijuana market.
“Nobody in Mississippi, your average Joe, wants to start a business and not have $250,000 just to throw on a license and not even have a building yet,” Calhoun told the paper, explaining that We are 74 is worried that the Legislature’s bill will place onerous financial burdens on marijuana business, locking small entrepreneurs and ma-and-pop operations out of the market.
Calhoun also said the group is also irate at the way they see the Court as having completely disregarded the will of the voters. “A lot of people I’ve spoken with feel like they’ve been completely disenfranchised. They don’t even see a point in voting when seventy-four percent says ‘Yes, we want this.’ Then someone...throws it all away.”
That sense of growing anger and frustration was palpable when one speaker at the rally -- author, activist, and radio host Adam Kokesh -- paused during his speech to ask the attendees a question. “Is that what it means to be an American citizen? This government owns you? Your will doesn’t matter?”
According to the Times-Tribune, attendees shouted “No!” in response, to which Kokesh said “I didn’t think so. So I thought it would be appropriate to just share a little civil disobedience with y'all. This is what it means to stand with the 74. We are the 74...This racket of the drug war of injustice must end!”
And with that, Kokesh lit a joint and smoked marijuana on Hernando’s city square.
Politicians Seem to be Listening for Once
We told you last week that the State Senator and State Representative who have taken the lead on negotiating a medical marijuana bill both thought the Legislature could be ready for a special session by the end of this month.
And now, those same legislators say they’re almost there.
“I believe we have basically most of the major issues resolved,” said Senator Kevin Blackwell, of Southaven, told Mississippi Today. “We’re very, very close.”
And his colleague, Representative Lee Yancey, of Brandon, agreed. “I would be surprised if there were not a special session soon, but that’s not my call.”
The legislators declined to give any specifics about the bill they’re crafting. “I think we owe it to other legislators to let them have a chance to view and vet what we have worked on to this point,” before making the details public, Yancey said.
And the legislators also say they’re aware of the importance of the legislation, and the need to get medical marijuana right after such a long wait.
Yancy said “We are cognizant of how important this is, that there are those our there who need this medication, and we are trying to put together a program we can be proud of — and know that we will have to tweak it year to year — but trying to get it as good as we can on the first push.”
Blackwell added “They don’t have a program right now, and I think we are going to give them a program that is better than the one from Initiative 65.”
Medical Marijuana Advocate Sees Reasons for Optimism
Ken Newburger, director of the Mississippi Medical Marijuana Association, told Mississippi Today that he has been in contact with Blackwell and Yancey, and believes they are correct that the special session will be coming soon, and that the result will show that the legislators have been listening to their constituents’ demands.
“I think that’s been the most refreshing and surprising part of this whole legislative process, has been the willingness of the legislators in both chambers to reach out to people who have been advocating it, and patients who have been advocating it for years,” Newburger said.
Newburger also said he was confident that the new bill would permit medical marijuana in various forms, including smokable, and would eschew outrageously high fees and licensing costs.
Mississippi has Lagged Behind, but You Don’t Have to
Thirty-six states have already established medical marijuana markets, so it's understandable that Mississippians might be frustrated that their state is only just now hammering out the details for a market of their own.
You’ve waited this long for relief; why wait any longer than you have to?
Reserve an evaluation with one of our caring doctors today, and we’ll book an appointment for you just as soon as Mississippi’s medical marijuana market is up and running.
You’ll meet with your new doctor virtually using your smartphone or computer for a telemedicine appointment. From the safety and convenience of your own home, you’ll decide together if medical marijuana is right for you. And you’ll even save $25 off the cost of your appointment!