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Weiland: When voting Tuesday, support Initiative 65A

On Nov. 3 Mississippians will be deciding if we want to permit marijuana to be used “medically” in our state.

No matter what your personal view on marijuana is, Initiative 65 is a bad deal for Mississippi.

What is so bad about Initiative 65?

If Initiative 65 is approved, the initiative as written will be in the Mississippi Constitution and no changes can be made to the law without going back through the initiative process, which includes getting verified signatures and putting the changes on a future ballot.

State legislators and our local city and county officials will not be able to make any necessary changes to the law.

Initiative 65 mandates a 7 percent “user fee” plus nominal licensing fees for dispensaries. The fees will be sent to the Mississippi State Department of Health to administer the program. The fees can only be used by the MSDH for the marijuana program and no other MSDH needs.

Dr. Thomas Dobbs and his staff are already understaffed dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic and a multitude of other public help issues and adding this responsibility would be a daunting task.

Since Initiative 65 mandates all fees are to be used only for the marijuana program, Vicksburg and Warren County will not receive any revenue to provide services such as fire and police protection to the “medical” marijuana businesses.

Initiative 65 is also very specific on zoning for the marijuana program. If an area in the city or county is zoned to accept a pharmacy, a permit for a marijuana dispensary cannot be denied. The law as written allows these “pot shops” to be set up within 500 feet of churches or schools, and local officials cannot make any zoning changes.

The Legislature placed Initiative 65A on the ballot as an alternative to the original law. Initiative 65A permits the use of “medical” marijuana for terminally ill Mississippians and will give the Legislature control of how the program is established.

The proponents of Initiative 65 don’t want you to trust “politicians” to set up the program.

The “politicians” they don’t want us to trust are our friends and neighbors.

State Sen. Briggs Hopson, State Rep. Oscar Denton and State Rep. Kevin Ford live and work in our communities.

They should be trusted to come up with a program that is beneficial to all Mississippians.

There are currently four FDA approved drugs derived from marijuana. One of them is used routinely for patients receiving chemotherapy and another is approved for certain types of seizures. These are the real medical marijuana drugs and the only kind we should support.

I urge you to reject Initiative 65. Vote “NO” on “medical” marijuana, then go down and vote “YES” to Initiative 65A.

This is the only way to assure a reasonable “medical” marijuana program that works for all of us in the state.

 

Geri Weiland, M.D., is a pediatrician with Merit Health River Region and is President-Elect of the Mississippi State Medical Association.