Medical marijuana initiatives have a long, usually successful, history

By Aaron Rice
September 11, 2019

In 2018, voters in Missouri, Oklahoma, and Utah approved ballot initiatives to legalize medical marijuana. Two years prior, voters in Arkansas, Florida, and North Dakota did the same thing. 

The trend lines are obvious: What began as initiatives in largely blue states, or libertarian leaning western states, has now spread to traditionally Republican states. And we have even begun to see Republican legislatures in states like Louisiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia approving medical marijuana. 

And next fall, Mississippi voters will have the opportunity to make the Magnolia State the 34th state to legalize medical marijuana. Medical Marijuana 2020, the team behind the ballot initiative, recently submitted over 100,000 certified signatures to the secretary of state. 

If history, and momentum, is any guide, the campaign has a good chance of success even as statewide officials and candidates struggle with the issue that is very popular according to internal polling.

A history of how medical marijuana became legal by state

StateBallot Initiative StateLegislative Approval 
Oregon1998Rhode Island2006
Washington1998New Mexico2007
Colorado2000New Jersey2010
Nevada2000District of Columbia2010
Massachusetts2012New Hampshire2013
North Dakota2016New York2014
  West Virginia2017

During the 2019 session, the Georgia and Texas legislatures approved medical marijuana though the rollout has not been finalized. 

What would medical marijuana look like in Mississippi

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

If a physician concludes that a person suffers from a debilitating medical condition and that the use of medical marijuana may mitigate the symptoms or effects of the condition, the physician may certify the person to use medical marijuana by issuing a form as prescribed by the Mississippi Board of Health. The issuance of this form is defined in the proposal as a “physician certification” and is valid for 12 months, unless the physician specifies a shorter period of time.

That individual then becomes a qualified patient. After they do this, they present the physician certification to the Mississippi Department of Health and are issued a medical marijuana identification card. The ID card allows the patient to obtain medical marijuana from a licensed and regulated treatment center and protects the patient from civil and/or criminal sanctions in the event the patient is confronted by law enforcement officers. “Shopping” among multiple treatment centers is prevented through the use of a real-time database and online access system maintained by the Mississippi Department of Health.

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.


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