At Tuesday’s Republican gubernatorial debate, all three Republican candidates for the top office in the state said they oppose the medical marijuana initiative that is ongoing and may be in front of voters in a little over a year. 

For various reasons ranging from federal prohibitions to the belief that this is a gateway, Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves, former Supreme Court Justice Bill Waller, Jr., and state Rep. Robert Foster all agreed they were opposed to the initiative.

Waller referenced his time on the court saying, “The last thing we need is another substance that could provide issues.” 

He added, “Even in medical use, reports show an increased aggressiveness with the use of it as a gate to other drugs. I am not interested in introducing another drug unless it can be shown there is a void that couldn’t be filled in any other way.” 

Reeves is also a no. 

“The reason I am is because I have three daughters and see this as a potential gateway drug,” Reeves remarked. “In many areas of our society, drugs are killing people, drugs are ruining people’s lives. They lead to a life of criminal activity. I will personally vote no.” 

Foster said he couldn’t support it at this time “because it has not been unscheduled by the federal government.” 

While that is true, the U.S. Congress passed a law five years ago that prohibits federal agents from raiding medical marijuana growers in states where medical marijuana is legal, effectively allowing states to legalize medical marijuana as they have done since 1996. 

“I don’t want what they have in California and Colorado where they have pot shops on every street corner. If the federal government were to allow it to be sold through pharmacies after a doctor has written a prescription for certain things, then that would be a totally different scenario.”

Medical marijuana is now legal in 33 states and Washington, D.C. And much of the movement has been in the past decade. Just eight states legalized medical marijuana by 2000. But 21 states have acted since 2010. The most recent states to legalize medical marijuana were Missouri, Oklahoma, and Utah, each doing so last fall. 

To make Mississippi the 34th state, proponents of a ballot initiative, Medical Marijuana 2020, are hoping to collect enough signatures to have the question on the ballot in November, 2020.

The petition faces a September 6 deadline to submit 86,000 signatures to the Secretary of State. Jamie Grantham, a spokesman for the campaign, said they have collected more than two-thirds of the necessary signatures.