Ask Our Experts: Mississippi’s Two Medical Marijuana Measures
Q: I am curious about the outlook and probability of Mississippi’s passing one of two medical marijuana measure this year, though they have been down this road before. What seems the likeliest outcome?
By J.J. McCoy, Senior Managing Editor, New Frontier Data
A: Among several states considering measures this fall, Mississippians will decide between the merits of two options on the ballot. Initiative Measure No. 65 and Alternative Initiative Measure No. 65A (House Concurrent Resolution 39) represent versions for adding a medical marijuana amendment to the Mississippi Constitution.
While Initiative Measure No. 65 is a citizen-driven initiative, Alternative Initiative Measure No. 65A presents an alternative measure by the Mississippi legislature. Either would amend the state constitution to create a statewide medical marijuana program, though Alternative Initiative Measure No. 65A is less specific in its language, providing latitude for lawmakers to include more details to its scope.
An estimated 263,000 adult Mississippians (age 18+) – or 11.6% of the state’s population of 2.97 million – currently consume cannabis from illicit sources. New Frontier Data projects Mississippi’s medical-use market to be worth more than $6 million in its first year of sales, surpassing $21 million in its second year, then nearly doubling to $41 million in Year 3, and reaching nearly $66 million in Year 4.
In a region that is conservative by tradition, cannabis has long been a contentious topic in the Magnolia State, with no fewer than 20 medical marijuana bills having fallen short of leaving the statehouse. Yet this summer, a political polling firm reported that its survey of 600 probable Mississippi voters found four among five in favor of medical marijuana, support which was sustained across party lines by 76% of Republicans, 82% of independents, and 89% of Democrats.
Correspondingly, some 228,000 state residents this year reportedly signed petitions supporting Initiative Measure No. 65 to allow possession of up to 2.5 ounces of cannabis for treatment of more than 20 qualifying medical conditions.
In a response which some interpret as a divide-and-conquer attempt to split the vote and prevent either option’s passage, lawmakers introduced the competing Alternative Initiative Measure No. 65A that would restrict marijuana use to terminally ill patients, who would rely strictly on pharmaceutical-grade products.
Neither option contains any express protections for applicants for employment or employees, nor prohibits testing for marijuana. If Initiative Measure No. 65 is passed, the deadline for the medical marijuana program to be operational would be August 15, 2021. Alternative Initiative Measure No. 65A contains no specified deadline.
Despite November’s outcome in Mississippi, industry experts think that social momentum has sufficiently shifted to where the tide is turning among other states in the Southeast.