LAUREL — This election season, we face many consequential decisions. In addition to who should lead our country, we in Mississippi face a decision on how we should view our constitution.

Initiative 65 proposes to use the constitution of the state of Mississippi to serve the business interests of a few to enrich and empower themselves at the expense of the people of Mississippi.

“But this is about making marijuana available to suffering patients” the proponents have declared.

Surely those like me who have taken an oath to alleviate suffering can’t oppose using all available means to do so.

Rep. Joel Bomgar and his acolytes have been proficient in diverting attention from the ultimate effects of Initiative 65 to this more emotional plea that, I must admit, has some allure. In my internal medicine and hospice and palliative medicine practice, I have seen much suffering that on rare occasion was exceptionally difficult to alleviate. In such circumstances, we all long for some effective tool to bring peace and comfort. Should we make effective, validated, safe forms of cannabis or derivatives available to these suffering souls? I believe we should find a way to do so.

Initiative 65 will not, however, provide for this need.

Instead, it will pervert the constitution that guides our laws, lawmakers, and even our Mississippi State Department of Health (MSDH), which strives to protect us even now from a global pandemic. The governor, Legislature, local government and law enforcement will be told to stand down and rendered powerless before this amendment.

State, city and county governments will never see a dime of revenue from the windfall of cash filling the coffers of the marijuana industry. Initiative 65 permits a 7% “fee,” collected by MSDH, to be used only to administrate and advance the medical marijuana industry. I’ve heard some eager voices ready to use monies derived from legalizing marijuana to support community needs. Be assured, the Big Tobacco money behind Initiative 65 has no intention of sharing its windfall with your state, city or county governments.

Your community will have no say in whether a medical marijuana dispensary, grower or processor locates in your community. The minimal restrictions in Initiative 65 trump all local regulations, insisting that anywhere a pharmacy would be permitted, a medical marijuana dispensary must be permitted, and where a commercial business may locate, a marijuana grower or processor must be allowed, as long as it is at least 500 feet away from an existing school, child care center or church. No limits may be placed on the number of growers, processors or dispensaries by local governments.

Despite the name, there is nothing “medical” about this proposed amendment.

No dose, strength, frequency or route of delivery is specified. This is best described as an intoxicant, the dose and manner of administration of which is left to the user.

No other medication or product is enshrined in the Mississippi Constitution. Once ensconced in this powerful position, any necessary changes, modifications or corrections will face immense hurdles.

The list of conditions for which a “marijuana certificate” is allowed is expansive, essentially unlimited in scope. Recent experience in Oklahoma has amply demonstrated that such largess results in the vast majority of “medical marijuana” being essentially recreational, serving no legitimate medical function.

Those of us dedicated to first doing no harm cannot support Initiative 65, as it will clearly harm the organs of our state and local governments and the MSDH.

For those like me who see the potential for medical benefits from cannabis or its derivatives, research is key. Initiative 65 short-circuits those prospects and establishes in the constitution a dystopian view of public health in which the MSDH must establish, manage, govern and advocate for the non-medical use of an intoxicant, with known potential for great harm, particularly when taken by combustion and inhalation.

If you believe recreational marijuana is a reasonable proposition, and that the revenue it could bring would benefit your community, you cannot support Initiative 65, as it forever prohibits any financial benefit and removes zoning controls from your community.

Please, go beyond the superficial sizzle advocates for Initiative 65 have provided.

Read the constitutional amendment in detail.

Once convinced, please do as we at the Mississippi State Medical Association are doing. Talk to your family, friends, neighbors and anyone else who will listen. Vote “no” on 65.

Dr. W. Mark Horne is a Laurel physician. He serves as president of the Mississippi State Medical Association.

(1) comment

Pam

Thank you for publishing this article in today's paper. It has changed my mind. I do believe in the medical benefits of cannabis, but I think it should be in the control of our medical professionals and trained pharmacist as well as MS Health Department. This article has changed my mind.

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