October 27, 2020 10:22:39 AM
It is almost comical the lengths Mississippi's establishment has gone to make sure Mississippi does not have a medical marijuana program.
After years of watching the Mississippi Legislature ignore bills to establish a medical marijuana program in the state, citizens took the matter in their own hands through the petition process. Needing the signature of 100,000 registered voters to place the issue before the voters, the petition drive accumulated 220,000 signatures.
Suffice to say, the legislators did not take it well and took steps to put these people back in their place, starting with the way the issue would be presented to voters. The ballot is constructed to confuse just enough voters to ensure that medical marijuana doesn't pass.
In a fair process, there would be a single ballot question asking voters to choose among three options: Yes to Initiative 65. Yes to Initiative 65A. No to medical marijuana.
That is not what we have, though.
First, you must choose whether to vote for either or neither of the two initiatives.
Then, you must choose whether "either" is pronounced "EYE-ther" or "EEE-ther."
If you choose, the EYE-ther pronunciation, you must decide whether "neither" is pronounced "KNEE-ther" or "NIGH-ther."
If you choose "EEE-ther" and "NIGH-ther," your vote is on the basis of inconsistent pronunciation. It has to be "EEE" and "KNEE" or "EYE" and "NIGH." You cannot have it both ways.
If you have successfully proceeded past this point, you can proceed to choose whether you prefer 65 or 65A.
If 65 attracts more of the "EEE/KNEE" votes than 65A receives in "EYE/NIGH" votes, medical marijuana will be permitted in a handful of random counties selected by the Governor based on "the advice of experts while being careful to avoid the perils of imposing the "heavy hand of government."
If 65A attracts the most votes from the "EEE/KNEE" crowd, 65A will allow the Legislature to craft a medical marijuana program in a timely fashion, which for the Legislature is roughly the year 2080. These things cannot be rushed, after all.
As if the intentional ballot confusion isn't enough, the Legislature and their cronies have embarked on a misinformation campaign that makes the 1936 film "Reefer Madness" seem like a documentary.
Some, but not all, law enforcement in the state have said that medical marijuana will lead to an increase in crime, despite the fact that virtually every study going back 20 years shows no credible link between medical marijuana and increased crime rates.
There is also the fear-mongering about how 65, which allows for privately-owned dispensaries, will mean a "pot shop" on every corner, especially corners near schools.
Arkansas established a medical marijuana program 1½ years ago. The state has 39 dispensaries in the whole state. So either Arkansas is pretty close to being round (few corners) or somebody is doing some serious exaggerating.
Ok, then, but what about the children?
In case you were wondering, 65 dictates that dispensaries cannot be located within 500 feet of a school, which is the zoning that already applies to places that trade in powerful mind- and mood-altering, highly-addictive products. We call those places pharmacies. I don't see anybody getting out the tape measure to figure out how close Walgreens is to the neighborhood elementary school.
Another big flaw of 65, say the detractors, is that it allows for no oversight by the Legislature.
They say that like it's a bad thing.
So the Legislature wants to do for medical marijuana what it has done for public education, roads/bridges infrastructure, foster care or mental health?
Forget medical marijuana for a second. I want to know what these legislators are smoking.
In truth, 65 deserves our votes, despite the intentionally convoluted way medical marijuana will appear on the ballot and despite the ludicrous misinformation campaigns orchestrated by those who don't care that 81 percent of Mississippians (according to a May poll of 600 likely Mississippi voters), believe that a doctor should be able to prescribe marijuana to patients suffering from qualifying medical conditions.
Two-thirds of the states have medical marijuana programs, including a bunch of "red" states. School kids there aren't using their lunch money to score weed at the pot shop next door. Blood is not flowing down the streets because Aunt Martha is using marijuana instead of opioids for pain relief.
But I think the best reason of all to vote for 65 is to teach these legislators and their cronies a lesson.
So vote FOR "either" then vote FOR 65.
And, by the way, it's "EYE-ther" and "NIGH-ther."
Slim Smith is a columnist and feature writer for The Dispatch. His email address is [email protected]
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