Seth Blackledge

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(Sue Note:  Seth Blackledge is a student at the University of Miami School of Law Class of 2021.  He is also a Magee, Mississippi guy.  I contacted Seth for an unbiased article concerning Initiative 65 & 65A.  Seth has done an excellent job.  He is the son of Tommy and Sonia Blackledge of Magee.  I am not going to lie to you…it is a long read…but to be an informed voter and a person who makes up their own mind about issues…you need to read this.

On Monday, October 5, 2020, Rep. Price Wallace will be on MageeNews.com live to discuss the initiative.)

Seth Blackledge

Seth Blackledge

University of Miami School of Law

J.D. Candidate, Class of 2021

 

Initiative 65: Medical Marijuana in Mississippi

            Mississippi Ballot Measure 1, (Initiative 65 and Alternative 65A) two versions of a medical marijuana amendment, are on the ballot in Mississippi on November 3, 2020. Initiative 65 was an indirect initiated constitutional amendment and Alternative 65 was referred to the ballot alongside Initiative 65 as an alternative measure by the state legislature.1

Voting “either measure” signifies that the voter wants either Initiative 65 or Alternative 65A to pass, thereby allowing the use of medical marijuana by qualified patients. The voter must then proceed to the second question to choose their preferred version.

 

Voting “neither measure” (against both) signifies that the voter wants neither Initiative 65 nor Alternative 65A to pass. The voter can then proceed to the second question to choose their preferred version in the event the “either” option gets more votes.

Voters then choose between Initiative 65 or Alternative 65A, regardless of their answer to the first question. Voters who choose “either” in the first question must answer the second question for their ballots to be valid. Voters who answer “neither” can but do not need to answer the second question for their ballots to be counted.

Voting for Initiative 65 supports approving the medical marijuana amendment as provided by Initiative 65, which would allow medical marijuana treatment for more than 20 specified qualifying conditions, allow individuals to possess up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana at one time, and tax marijuana sales at the current state sales tax rate of 7%.

 

Voting for Alternative 65A supports approving the legislature’s alternative medical marijuana amendment, which would restrict smoking marijuana to terminally ill patients; require pharmaceutical-grade marijuana products and treatment oversight by licensed physicians, nurses, and pharmacists; and leave tax rates, possession limits, and certain other details to be set by the legislature.

If there are more votes for “either” than for “neither” in the first question, the version that receives majority approval in the second question is enacted, provided it receives approval from at least 40% of the ballots cast at the election.

The Medical Marijuana 2020 campaign, sponsors of Initiative 65, submitted more than 214,000 signatures—105,686 of which were valid— in September 2019. The initiative was then filed with the state legislature according to Mississippi’s indirect initiative process. The legislature had three options: it could (a) choose to adopt the initiative by a majority vote in each house, (b) reject the initiative, or (c) place an alternative measure on the ballot alongside the original initiative. Regardless of whether the legislature adopts or rejects the measure, the proposed amendment proceeds to the ballot.

The Mississippi State Legislature passed House Concurrent Resolution 39 as a legislative alternative to the initiative, which will appear on the ballot as Alternative 65A. The vote was 72-49 in the House on March 10, and 34-17 in the Senate on March 12, 2020.

Initiative 65 and Alternative 65A would both amend the Mississippi Constitution to provide for the establishment of a medical marijuana program in Mississippi for individuals with a debilitating medical condition.

Under Initiative 65, medical marijuana could be recommended for patients with at least one of the 22 specified qualifying conditions including cancer, epilepsy or seizures, Parkinson’s disease, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), Crohn’s disease, HIV, and more. Patients could possess up to 2.5 ounces of medical marijuana at one time. Marijuana sales under Initiative 65 would be taxed at the state’s sales tax rate, which is 7% as of 2020.

Alternative 65A does not specify qualifying conditions, possession limits, or a tax rate. Many details would need to be set by the state legislature. Alternative 65A would restrict the ability to smoke marijuana to terminally ill patients.

 

The differences between Initiative 65 and Alternative 65A are summarized in the following chart:

 

Provision Initiative 65 Alternative 65A
Number of qualifying conditions 22 specified; more may be established at a later date none specified
Possession limits 2.5 ounces at once none specified
Ability to smoke marijuana prohibited in public places restricted to terminally ill patients
Taxes on marijuana sales taxed at state sales tax rate (7% as of 2020) no tax rate specified
Cost for medical marijuana patient ID cards capped at $50 no cost specified
Administrating agency Mississippi Department of Health not specified
Deadline for medical marijuana cards to be issued August 15, 2021 no date specified

 

Measure design of Initiative 65

Initiative 65 would amend the constitution to provide for a medical marijuana program in Mississippi under the direction of the Mississippi Department of Health. Individuals with a debilitating medical condition could seek certification from a Mississippi-licensed physician to obtain medical marijuana. Marijuana sales would be taxed at a rate not to exceed the state’s sales tax rate, which is 7% as of 2020. Medical marijuana patient identification cards could cost up to $50.

            Qualifying conditions

The measure defines debilitating medical condition as “cancer, epilepsy or other seizures, Parkinson’s disease, Huntington’s disease, muscular dystrophy, multiple sclerosis, cachexia, post-traumatic stress disorder, positive status for human immunodeficiency virus, acquired immune deficiency syndrome, chronic or debilitating pain, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, glaucoma, agitation of dementias, Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, sickle-cell anemia, autism with aggressive or self-injurious behaviors, pain refractory to appropriate opioid management, spinal cord disease or severe injury, intractable nausea, severe muscle spasticity, or another medical condition of the same kind or class to those herein enumerated and for which a physician believes the benefits of using medical marijuana would reasonably outweigh potential health risks.”

            Possession limits

The measure specifies that no qualified patient could possess more than 2.5 ounces of medical marijuana at one time and that no more than 2.5 ounces could be provided to a patient in a 14-day period. The weight limit would not include ingredients combined with medical marijuana to prepare edible products, topical products, ointments, oils, tinctures, or other products.

           

 

            Other provisions

Under the measure, no medical marijuana treatment center could be located within 500 feet of a school, church, or child-care establishment.

Nothing in the measure would require a physician to issue a certification for a patient to obtain medical marijuana.

The Mississippi Department of Health would be charged with implementing the provisions of the amendment and issuing rules and regulations for the program by July 1, 2021. The Department would need to issue identification cards and licenses for treatment center by August 15, 2021.

Measure design of Alternative 65A

Alternative 65A, the state legislature’s proposed alternative to Initiative 65, would amend the constitution to provide for a medical marijuana program in Mississippi. Alternative 65A would require the medical marijuana program to “be based on sound medical principles” and be designed and run by a state agency using input from health professionals in designing the program. Under Alternative 65A, marijuana products would need to be produced by state-licensed manufacturers at a pharmaceutical grade. Marijuana could not be smoked except by those with terminal medical conditions as certified by a healthcare professional. Treatment would need to be overseen by licensed physicians, nurses, and pharmacists. The program under Alternative 65A would have a registry of enrolled patients, a process for patient tracking, and assessment of treatment outcomes.

Fiscal impact statement

The fiscal impact statements for Ballot Measure 1 that will appear on the ballot are as follows:

Measure Legislative Budget Office Fiscal Analysis
Initiative 65
The overall cost to Mississippi for the first year is estimated to be $11,068,150. The anticipated expenses for the first year to implement a medical marijuana program is $24,068,150 (Plants – seeds to Sale: $5,000,000; Licensing, Monitoring, Inspection: $16,220,150; and Cost to Collect Revenue: $2,848,000). The anticipated revenue is $13,000,000, (User ID Cards: $2,500,000; Commerical Licenses: $500,000, and sales fee at 7 percent: $10,000,000).
Alternative 65A
The cost or revenue impact associated with this initiative is undeterminable.

 

The Text of the Bill

 

2020 Bill Text MS V. 4

 

WHEREAS, under Section 273 of the Mississippi Constitution of 1890, the people have the power to propose and enact constitutional amendments by initiative, and the procedure for doing so is set forth in Chapter 17, Title 23, Mississippi Code of 1972.

WHEREAS, following those provisions, the people have proposed Initiative Measure No. 65, which has a subject matter stated to be “medical marijuana for qualified persons with debilitating medical conditions,” and this initiative measure will be presented to the qualified electors at the November 2020 election.

 

WHEREAS, when an initiative measure is proposed under this procedure, the Legislature may submit an alternative measure for the original initiative measure, which must be presented to the qualified electors at the same election at which the original measure is proposed, and under Section 23-17-29, Mississippi Code of 1972, such a constitutional initiative may be adopted or amended by a majority vote of each house of the Legislature.

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED BY THE LEGISLATURE OF THE STATE OF MISSISSIPPI, That the following amendment to the Mississippi Constitution of 1890 is proposed to the qualified electors of the state at the November 2020 election, as an alternative to the amendment proposed by Initiative Measure No. 65:

Article 16, Section 290, Mississippi Constitution of 1890, is created to read as follows:

Section 290.  There is established a program in the State of Mississippi to allow the medical use of marijuana products by qualified persons. The program shall be structured to include, at a minimum, the following conditions and requirements:

The program shall be based on sound medical principles;

The program shall be administered by an appropriate state agency;

The administering state agency shall seek the input of health professionals to help design the program;

The program shall be limited to qualified persons with debilitating medical conditions as certified by health practitioners who are licensed under state law;

Marijuana products that are used by qualified persons in the program shall be of suitable pharmaceutical quality and prepared by state-licensed manufacturers;

Treatment of qualified persons in the program shall be carried out by physicians, nurses and pharmacists who are licensed under state law;

The program shall provide for limited categories of marijuana preparation of suitable and verified quality standards for oral administration;

The smoking of marijuana products shall be restricted to the treatment of qualified persons who have terminal medical conditions as certified by health practitioners who are licensed under state law;

The program shall provide for a limited number of state-licensed manufacturers of marijuana products;

The program shall have a patient registry for program enrollment, patient tracking, and treatment outcomes assessment; and

The program shall provide for reporting requirements that include research, analysis, and outcomes assessment.”

 

2020 Bill Text MS V. 4

Except as otherwise provided for in this article, nothing in this article shall:

(a)

Affect or repeal laws relating to the use of marijuana that is not intended for use for a debilitating medical condition.

(b)

Authorize the use of medical marijuana for anyone other than a qualified patient, and, where authorized by this chapter, for caregivers and officers, owners, operators, employees, contractors, and agents of treatment centers.

(c)

Permit a person to operate any motor vehicle, aircraft, train, or boat while consuming or impaired by medical marijuana.

(d)

Require accommodation for the use of medical marijuana or require any on-site use of medical marijuana in any public or private correctional institution, detention facility, or place of education, or employment.

(e)

Require any health insurance provider or any government agency or authority to reimburse any person for expenses related to the use of medical marijuana.

(f)

Override any public laws, ordinances, regulations, or rules or any private rules, regulations, or provisions related to smoking in or on public or private places.

(g)

Affect any existing drug testing laws, regulations, or rules.

(2)

It is unlawful for any person to smoke medical marijuana in a public place. Any person who violates this subsection may, upon conviction, be punished by a fine of not more than One Hundred Dollars ($100.00).

 

(3)

“Debilitating medical condition” shall mean cancer, epilepsy or other seizures, Parkinson’s disease, Huntington’s disease, muscular dystrophy, multiple sclerosis, cachexia, post-traumatic stress disorder, positive status for human immunodeficiency virus, acquired immune deficiency syndrome, chronic or debilitating pain, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, glaucoma, agitation of dementias, Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, sickle-cell anemia, autism with aggressive or self-injurious behaviors, pain refractory to appropriate opioid management, spinal cord disease or severe injury, intractable nausea, severe muscle spasticity, or another medical condition of the same kind or class to those herein enumerated and for which a physician believes the benefits of using medical marijuana would reasonably outweigh potential health risks.

 

 

 

(4)

“Department” shall mean the Mississippi State Department of Health or its successor agency.

 

(5)

“Medical marijuana” shall have the meanings given as of July 1, 2018 in Section 41-29- l0S(r) and/or Section 41-29-105(0), of the Mississippi Code of 1972, and which is used to treat the symptoms and/or effects of a debilitating medical condition as provided for in this article.

 

(6)

“Medical marijuana identification card” shall mean a document, prescribed by and issued by the department, which identifies a person as a qualified patient or caregiver or officer, owner, operator, employee, contractor, or agent of a medical marijuana treatment center.

 

(7)

“Medical marijuana treatment center” shall mean an entity that is registered with and licensed and regulated by the department and that processes medical marijuana, related supplies, and/or educational materials. A treatment center may engage in one or more of the activities involved in the processing of medical marijuana.

 

(8)

“Physician” shall mean a person with a valid Doctor of Medicine or Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine degree and who holds an unrestricted license to practice medicine in the state of Mississippi by the Mississippi Board of Medical Licensure, or its successor agency.

 

(9)

“Physician certification” shall mean a form approved by the department, signed and dated by a physician, certifying that a person suffers from a debilitating medical condition for which the use of medical marijuana may mitigate the symptoms and/or effects. The certification shall remain current for twelve months, unless the physician specifies a shorter period of time, and shall be issued only after an in-person examination of the patient in Mississippi. A certification shall only be issued on behalf of a minor when the minor’s parent or guardian is present and provides signed consent. Nothing herein shall require a physician to issue a certification.

 

(10)

“Process” shall mean to acquire, administer, compound, convert, cultivate, deliver, develop, disburse, dispense, distribute, grow, harvest, manufacture, package, possess, prepare, process, produce, propagate, research, sell, test, transport, or transfer medical marijuana or any related products such as foods, tinctures, aerosols, oils, or ointments.

 

 

(11)

“Qualified patient” shall mean a person who has been diagnosed with a debilitating medical condition and who has been issued a physician certification.

 

(12)

“Use” shall mean the acquisition, possession, preparation, use or use with an accessory, delivery, transfer, or administration of medical marijuana by a qualified patient or caregiver. For purposes of this chapter, “accessory” shall have the meaning given in Section 41-29-l0S(v) of the Mississippi Code of 1972, as of July 1, 2018.

 

Section 5.

 

(1)

The department shall implement, administer, and enforce the provisions of this article and shall issue reasonable rules and regulations, pursuant to the Mississippi Administrative Procedures Act, in the discharge of its responsibilities.

 

(2)

The department shall prescribe reasonable rules and regulations pursuant to this section that shall include, but not be limited to, tracking and labelling of medical marijuana; qualifications for and safe and secure processing of medical marijuana by medical marijuana treatment centers; restrictions on advertising and marketing; issuance of medical marijuana identification cards; standards for testing facilities; use of medical marijuana in nursing homes, hospices, and assisted living facilities; reciprocal agreements with other states for patients registered in medical marijuana programs; qualifications of and limitations on caregivers and officers, owners, operators, employees, contractors, and agents of treatment centers; implementation and operation of a statewide data base system to support the utilization of identification cards; and penalties for violations of this article.

 

(3)

The rules and regulations may include a reasonable fee of up to Fifty Dollars ($50.00) for issuing an identification card and reasonable fees for licensing treatment centers, which shall be fixed by and paid to the department, pursuant to Section 6.

 

 

 

(4)

The rules and regulations shall not limit the number of licensed medical marijuana treatment centers nor set the price of medical marijuana.

 

(5)

The rules and regulations shall require the department to issue an identification card or a license for a treatment center within a reasonable time following an application for a card or license.

 

(6)

The department shall issue a qualified patient a medical marijuana identification card upon presentation of a physician certification. Such card shall be renewed, as applicable, upon presentation of a new physician certification, but in no case shall a card have an expiration term longer than twelve (12) months. A qualified patient is authorized to receive medical marijuana from a treatment center upon presentation of his or her identification card.

 

(7)

The department and medical marijuana treatment centers shall protect the confidentiality of all qualified patients. All records containing the identity of qualified patients, caregivers, and physicians shall be confidential and exempt from disclosure under the Mississippi Public Records Act or any related statute, regulation, or rule pertaining to the public disclosure of records.

 

(8)

The department may establish an advisory committee to assist the department in the promulgation of rules and regulations and the regulation and enforcement of the provisions of this article.

 

(9)

The department shall adopt final rules and regulations pursuant to this article no later than July 1, 2021. The department shall begin issuing identification cards and treatment center licenses no later than August 15, 2021.

 

(10)

To ensure timely implementation of this chapter for qualified patients, and only for activities associated with implementation and operation, the department is exempt from the Mississippi Department of Information Technology Services laws, rules, and regulations for any information technology procurements made up to Two Hundred Fifty Thousand Dollars ($250,000) for two years from the effective date of this chapter. This exemption shall not apply to any reporting requirements.

 

(11)

The department is authorized to adopt and levy administrative fines to enforce the provisions of this article. Payment of any fines shall be deposited in the special fund created by Section 6 of this article.

 

(12)

The department is authorized to adopt and levy the following sanctions, singly or in combination, when it finds an applicant or licensee has committed any violation of this article or department rules or regulations: revoke or suspend a license, censure a licensee, impose a fine in an amount not to exceed Five Thousand Dollars ($5,000) for the first violation and an amount not to exceed Twenty Five Thousand Dollars ($25,000) for each subsequent violation, place a licensee on a probationary status, require the licensee to file regular reports and submit to reasonable requirements and restrictions, revoke probationary status of a licensee and impose other authorized sanctions, and refuse to issue or renew a license, restrict a license, or accept a voluntary surrendering of a license. The department is authorized to deny, suspend or revoke a license in any case in which it finds that there has been a substantial failure to comply with the requirements of a licensee. The notice and hearing requirements and judicial review provisions contained in Section 43-11-11 of the Mississippi Code of 1972, as of July 1, 2018, shall apply to the denial, suspension, or revocation of a license.

 

Section 8.

 

(1)

Medical marijuana treatment centers shall not provide to a qualified patient, during any one fourteen-day period, an amount of medical marijuana that exceeds 2.5 ounces by weight. At no one time shall a qualified patient possess more than 2.5 ounces of medical marijuana. The weight limitation herein shall not include any ingredients combined with medical marijuana to prepare edible products, topical products, ointments, oils, tinctures, or other products.

 

(2)

Medical marijuana shall only be dispensed to a qualified patient or caregiver with a current medical marijuana identification card by a medical marijuana treatment center.

 

(3)

All contracts under this article and related to the operation of medical marijuana treatment centers shall be enforceable and rules applicable to other similar businesses by the Department of Revenue shall apply to medical marijuana treatment centers created pursuant to this article, except that the processing and use of medical marijuana shall be exempt from the application of any state and/or local sales tax or other fee, other than that authorized by this article.

 

(4)

No medical marijuana treatment center shall be located within five hundred (500) feet of a pre-existing school, church, or licensed child care center.

 

(5)

Except as otherwise provided in this article, any zoning ordinances, regulations and/or provisions of a municipality or county shall be consistent with Section 1 of this article and shall not impair the availability of and reasonable access to medical marijuana. Zoning provisions applicable to retail dispensaries shall be no more restrictive than those for a licensed retail pharmacy and zoning provisions applicable to other businesses that fall within the definition of medical marijuana treatment centers shall be no more restrictive than other comparably sized and staffed lawful commercial or industrial businesses.

 

Section 9.

 

No later than two years from the implementation of this article, and every two years thereafter, the department shall provide to the Legislature a comprehensive public report of the operation of this article.

 

Section 10.

 

The provisions of this article are declared to be severable, and if any provision, word, phrase, or clause of this article or the application thereof shall be held invalid, such invalidity shall not affect the validity of the remaining portions of this article.

 

AMOUNT AND SOURCE OF REVENUE

 

The amendment is required to pay for itself and would require no general fund appropriation. The amendment creates three sources of operating revenue for the State Department of Health to use in implementing and enforcing the provisions of the amendment: fee for identification cards, fee for treatment center licenses, and a charge that the Department of Health may assess at the point of retail sale of medical marijuana. The revenue generated by the medical marijuana program in Arizona was used as a basis for a projection in Mississippi. Based on those calculations, implementation of this amendment would generate an estimated $6 million in special fund revenue on an annual basis.

 

 

2020 Voting Record MS H.C.R. 39

March 12, 2020

 

Author: Lamar, John Thomas
Title: Medical Marijuana
Location: Senate Floor
Motion: Pass 3rd Reading

 

Vote Outcome

Result: Pass      
Ayes: 34 Democrat: 3 Republican: 31
Noes: 17 Democrat: 12 Republican: 5

 

Votes

Ayes:
Blackwell, Kevin (R) Boyd, Nicole (R)
Carter, Joel R. (R) Caughman, Chris (R)
Chassaniol, Lydia Graves (R) Chism, Kathy (R)
DeBar, Dennis (R) DeLano, Scott (R)
Doty, Sally (R) Fillingane, Joey (R)
Harkins, Josh (R) Hill, Angela Burks (R)
Hopson, W. Briggs (R) Jackson, Gary (R)
Johnson, Chris (R) Kirby, Dean (R)
McCaughn, Tyler (R) McLendon, Michael (R)
McMahan, Chad (R) Michel, J. Walter (R)
Moran, Philip (R) Parker, David (R)
Polk, John (R) Potts Parks, Rita (R)
Seymour, Joseph M. (R) Sparks, Daniel (R)
Suber, Benjamin (R) Thompson, Mike (R)
Whaley, Neil (R) Wiggins, Brice (R)
Younger, Charles (R) Bryan, Hob (D)
Frazier, Hillman Terome (D) Horhn, John (D)
Noes:
Barnett, Juan (D) Blackmon, Barbara (D)
Blount, David (D) Butler, Albert (D)
Jackson, Robert (D) Jackson, Sampson (D)
Norwood, Sollie B. (D) Simmons, Derrick (D)
Simmons, Sarita (D) Thomas, Joseph (D)
Turner, Angela (D) Witherspoon, Tammy (D)
Branning, Jenifer B. (R) England, Jeremy (R)
McDaniel, Chris (R) Sojourner, Melanie (R)
Tate, Jeff (R)

 

 

 

MageeNews.com is an online news site covering Simpson and surrounding counties as well as the State of Mississippi.

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