I am a Mississippi physician and I believe Mississippi patients with debilitating medical conditions deserve to have medical marijuana as a treatment option as do more than 3.5 million patients in 34 other states including Louisiana, Florida, and Arkansas. The only way for Mississippi to have a well-regulated medical marijuana program is through Initiative 65, which will be on the November 3rd general election ballot. I’m voting for Initiative 65, and I hope you will too.
Initiative 65 would allow physicians and their patients with conditions and diagnoses like cancer, seizures, PTSD, ALS, and chronic pain to explore this treatment option as an alternative to opioids and other heavy pharmaceutical drugs. Many patients aren’t getting the relief they need from traditional medications and are dealing with unwanted side effects and even addiction. For some of these patients, medical marijuana could be a viable option to relieve their pain and help them cope with their symptoms.
Initiative 65 would provide medical marijuana to qualified patients through a strictly regulated program so that patients can get the relief they need while the public would also be protected. Initiative 65 explicitly names 22 qualifying medical conditions and requires an in-person exam from a Mississippi physician. Initiative 65 won’t make medical marijuana subject to sales tax, since Mississippi doesn’t tax prescription medicines. However, user fees can be collected to support the costs of the medical marijuana program including regulatory enforcement.
As a physician, I have heard the testimonials from patients across the country who are finding relief with medical marijuana and I want my patients to have this same opportunity if I believe they would benefit from its use. While medical marijuana isn’t a cure-all, physicians across the country agree that medical marijuana is a real option that can benefit patients.
Initiative 65 qualified for the ballot with the support of 228,000 Mississippians who signed petitions under our state ballot initiative law that allows voters to pass constitutional amendments for issues that the Mississippi Legislature won’t address. Unfortunately, politicians created their own competing ballot measure, Alternative 65A, as a kill measure to defeat Initiative 65 and prevent a medical marijuana program from being created.
I’m voting for Initiative 65 because it is the only option that specifically gives Mississippi physicians the authority to certify patients for medical marijuana. 65A broadly allows certification by “health practitioners” which is not limited or defined. Initiative 65 provides legal protection for patients, caregivers, and doctors, which isn’t provided by 65A. Initiative 65 also allows for caregivers to help disabled and homebound patients, as well as minors with qualifying medical conditions. 65A does not allow caregivers, so these patients would be excluded.
As a physician, I want patients and doctors in Mississippi to have medical marijuana as a treatment option and that is why I’ll be voting YES for Initiative 65.
Claude Harbarger is a Northsider.