HATTIESBURG, Miss. (WDAM) - Community leaders and medical professionals held a news conference Tuesday at the University of Southern Mississippi’s Ogletree Alumni House to oppose Initiative 65, which would legalize medical marijuana in the state of Mississippi if passed in November.
“To put a product into the constitution of the state of Mississippi, no product, medical or otherwise, has ever been put in the constitution of the state of Mississippi. This initiative is trying to do that,” said Ed Langton, a member of the Mississippi State Board of Health.
“Adolescents that use marijuana are at higher risk to have addiction other drugs,” said Dr. Jonathan Shook, a Hattiesburg pediatrician. “They are at higher risk to have mental health disorders, such as depression, including suicide risks. Higher incidence of schizophrenia and psychosis.”
Initiative 65 would allow a person diagnosed with a debilitating medical condition to purchase and possess up to 2.5 ounces of medical marijuana from a licensed treatment center.
Anthony McCullum, pastor of Piney Grove Baptist Church, says voting for this initiative could hurt low-income communities.
“People will take the money that they should be using to live their lives and end up using it toward marijuana,” McCullum said. “One of the biggest damages it does in the community, it destroys families man. I’ve been going to the prison in Leakesville for 30 years. I’ve counseled a lot of people that go in and out of prison system. I’ve never met one in over the past 30 years that said, ‘Man, I sure am glad I tried that marijuana when I was 16 [or] 14.‘”
The proposed amendment is even bringing attention to the Forrest County Sheriff’s Department.
Forrest County Sheriff Charlie Sims explains why it needs to be thought about more carefully.
“We had Sudafed that came out, it was a product to help people with colds and flu and all of this, and it was used illegally,” Sims said. “It was used to make methephatamine and it was a whole issue. If we find those same problems in the low-income communities with abuse, with medical marijuana and everything else, it’s not going to be an easy fix.”
Also on the ballot is Alternative 65A, which was proposed as an alternative to initiative 65 by the state legislature. It would legalize medical marijuana, but with added regulations such as limiting the number of state-licensed marijuana manufacturers, limiting categories of marijuana preparation and reporting requirements for patients.
The alternative would also limit the treatment of smoking marijuana products to terminally ill patients, though marijuana products that are not smoked may still be used by qualified patients with debilitating medical conditions.
“If you are headstrong set on voting for something, vote for 65A, not 65,” Langton said. “Let’s do this in a sane approach with people who their entire lives and professions are dedicated toward the health of people. Let them develop a product that is proper to use.”
The election date is set for Nov. 3, 2020.