Medical Marijuana 2020 initiative still seeking signatures

By NIKKI ROWELL,

Should Mississippi allow qualified patients with debilitating medical conditions as certified by Mississippi licensed physicians to use medical marijuana?

It is likely that Mississippians could see this question on the ballot in the November 2020 election.

Medical Marijuana 2020, a campaign to get this medical marijuana initiative on the general election ballot next year, has collected more than 90,000 gross signatures, but there are still more signatures needed in order to get enough certified signatures to qualify to be on the November 2020 ballot.

Jamie Grantham, director of communications for the Medical Marijuana 2020 campaign, said, “in other states, the rule of thumb is that you need to collect about 50% more signatures than the official threshold in order to clear it, so there is still a ways to go in order to get enough certified signatures to qualify to be on the November 2020 ballot, but we are well on our way. Our team is continuing to gather signatures throughout the state.”

State law requires more than 86,000 certified signatures to get an initiative on the ballot.

Signatures for the campaign must be collected in print on a hard copy of the initiative proposed for the 2020 ballot. For a signature to be certified, it must be from a registered voter in Mississippi and must match the voter registration record in the Secretary of State’s database. The circuit clerk may then certify the signature for a voter in their county.

County circuit clerks are in the process of verifying those signatures.

Those working with the campaign have held signature gathering events in Oxford, Ocean Springs and Jackson and are still working to collect signatures and garner support for the initiative. 

The initiative aims to make medical marijuana available to patients in Mississippi suffering from pain or debilitating conditions.

According to Grantham, the initiative cuts through the red tape that surrounded the state’s previous attempt at medical marijuana legislation.

Grantham said it all started with Harper Grace.

Several years ago, Ashley Durval’s daughter Harper Grace began to have hour-long seizures throughout the day.

In 2014, when Harper Grace was two years old, Gov. Phil Bryant signed a bill into law allowing access to CBD oil for treatment.

Durval stepped up to be the spokesperson of the Medical Marijuana 2020 campaign and filed the initiative with the secretary of state in July 2018.

This initiative differs from the previous bill by allowing people with other conditions to have access to medical marijuana, instead of just those with epilepsy to have access only to CBD oil.

“CBD is only one of the more than 100 cannabinoids found in the plant,” Grantham said.

“Medical research shows that there are many different types of conditions that people could benefit from this, such as those with Parkinson’s, cancer patients dealing with the effects of chemotherapy, chronic pain, HIV,” Grantham added.

There are 22 conditions listed to be eligible for medical marijuana treatment in the proposed initiative.

Grantham said there is medical research to back all of the conditions that are included. Research has been published by the Journal of American Medicine, among others.

The proposed initiative would allow the whole plant to be used at the doctor’s discretion.

If the initiative passes, it would work by first requiring a person to have one of the 22 debilitating medical conditions outlined in the initiative.

There is a special allowance for a physician to certify medical marijuana for a similar diagnosis.

Next, that person would have to be examined in-person in Mississippi by a Mississippi physician, meaning a Mississippi-licensed M.D. or D.O.

If the physician concludes that a person has a debilitating medical condition and that medical marijuana could mitigate the symptoms, the physician may certify the person to use medical marijuana.

The person would then be issued a form as prescribed by the Mississippi Board of Health, which would be valid for 12 months unless otherwise specified by the physician.

After that, if the person becomes a qualified patient under the proposal, the physician certification must be presented to the Mississippi Department of Health, and the patient will be issued an ID that would allow them to obtain medical marijuana from a licensed and regulated treatment center and would protect the patient from civil or criminal sanctions from law enforcement officers.

Volunteers all over the state are still working to collect signatures. To sign the petition, visit the Medical Marijuana 2020 website to get in touch with a volunteer.

“If it’s on the November 2020 ballot, then they will have to have it up and running and regulations functioning by August of 2021,” Grantham said.

 

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