A ballot initiative that could authorize medical marijuana is a step closer to appearing on the ballot in the November 2020 election.

Mississippians for Compassionate Care submitted 105,686 certified signatures from registered voters to the Mississippi Secretary of State’s office this week. The secretary of state’s office will have 90 days to determine if the initiative will qualify for the ballot. The signatures were required to be certified by county circuit clerks before being filed with the secretary of state’s office.

The group exceeded the minimum by more than 20,000 signatures statewide.

“We’re above the minimum in each of the old, five congressional districts because if a batch (of signatures) gets kicked out because it doesn’t have a signature or it doesn’t meet any of the requirements, we wanted to have a buffer there in each one that we indeed qualify,” said Jamie Grantham, who is the communications director for Mississippians for Compassionate Care.

If the ballot initiative is approved by voters in November, marijuana would be legal for those with a debilitating medical condition and would have to be authorized by a physician and receive it from a licensed treatment center.

Some of these conditions include:

  • Cancer
  • Epilepsy and other seizure-related ailments
  • Huntington’s disease
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder
  • HIV
  • AIDS
  • Chronic pain
  • ALS
  • Glaucoma
  • Chrohn’s disease
  • Sickle cell anemia
  • Autism with aggressive or self-harming behavior
  • Spinal cord injuries.

The Mississippi Department of Health would regulate the cultivation of marijuana, processing and being made available to patients. There would also be limits on how much marijuana a patient could obtain.

As of now, there are 33 states, including Arkansas and Louisiana, that have approved the use of medical marijuana and 2.8 million nationally are using medical marijuana to relieve pain and treat their symptoms.

“Patients in Mississippi are the same as anywhere else,” Grantham said. “We want them to have that option and it helps so many people. It’s polling at about 77 percent. What we’ve found talking to groups of people that most Mississippians are educated on this and understand that it helps people with severe conditions like epilepsy, cancer and Parkinson’s. They’re in favor of a strictly regulated medical program that’ll provide relief to patients.” 

This initiative wouldn’t affect recreational use of marijuana, which would require a new ballot initiative.

Speaking of that process, the way it works is organizers apply with the secretary of state’s office to start gathering signatures. The ballot initiative language and petition also has to be approved by the state Attorney General’s Office. 

Organizers of a ballot initiative need 17,237 signatures apiece for a total of 86,185 from the five old congressional districts — as they existed in 2000 —for a ballot initiative to meet the standard. 

Organizers have a year to get the required number of signatures and MFCC started on September 6, 2018.

For the measure to go into effect, the number of votes in favor of the initiative need to equal or exceed 40 percent of the total votes cast in the election.

Grantham said the MFCC used an outside vendor to obtain the signatures and the group did a lot of events statewide in addition to going door to door, important since Mississippi is a very rural state.