Medical Marijuana 2020


Frequently Asked Questions 

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Why Medical marijuana is needed in Mississippi

1. Why do people in Mississippi need access to medical marijuana?
Medical marijuana is a safe and effective treatment option for a broad range of serious medical conditions and their symptoms, such as chronic pain.  More than 2.8 million Americans are using medical marijuana in 33 states, and there is no reason to deny that same option for relief to Mississippians who are in chronic pain or suffer from other symptoms from debilitating medical conditions.  These laws are working well and helping patients in other states.  Mississippians with these types of medical conditions and diseases have little choice but to suffer with little or no relief, or to turn to opioids and heavy pharmaceutical drugs, which can cause dependence.

2. Is medical marijuana something that could actually be beneficial to me or my family?
In states with medical marijuana programs, medical marijuana helps many patients who suffer from chronic pain or other symptoms associated with a variety of debilitating conditions.  Mississippi’s medical marijuana initiative lists the conditions for which patients will be able to qualify, and that list relies on the experiences of other states and the available medical research.   The list includes epilepsy, Parkinson’s disease, muscular dystrophy, multiple sclerosis, post-traumatic stress disorder, HIV, Crohn’s disease, ALC, and sickle-cell anemia. To see a comprehensive list of debilitating medical conditions included in the proposal, see question 53.

3. Aren’t prescription drugs just as effective?
Patients suffering from debilitating illnesses and the treatments associated with those illnesses find that medical marijuana provides relief. Available prescription drugs, like opioids, often come with far more serious side effects than medical marijuana, which are modest compared to the risks associated with many prescription drugs.  Moreover, there have been no reported deaths from a marijuana overdose — unlike opioids and other dangerous medications that are prescribed every day.  Also, many patients who find relief from marijuana simply do not respond to prescription medications. 

 4. Are there any prescription drugs that are made from marijuana?
Yes, the FDA recently approved a drug called Epidiolex for the treatment of seizures associated with two rare and severe forms of epilepsy called Lennox-Gestault syndrome and Dravet syndrome. This is the first FDA-approved drug that contains a purified substance derived from marijuana called CBD which is a non-psychoactive component of marijuana. The FDA classifies this drug as a Schedule 5 controlled substance which is given to drugs with a proven medical use and low potential for abuse. 

The FDA has previously approved 3 drugs that are made from synthetic cannabinoids, which means they are man-made and not naturally derived from the marijuana plant. Marinol and Syndros are used to treat anorexia associated with weight loss in patients with AIDS, and nausea and vomiting associated with chemotherapy treatment of cancer.  Cesamet is used to prevent or treat chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting. Both Marinol and Cesamet have been legally available since 1985 and Syndros was approved in 2016. 

5. I thought Mississippi had some type of medical marijuana program?
In 2014, Governor Phil Bryant signed a bill into law that would legalize the use of CBD oil, which is an extract of the marijuana plant, for certain kinds of medical conditions. The law was named “Harper Grace’s Law,” after a young girl who has a rare type of epilepsy that causes violent seizures. In other states, children like Harper Grace have used medical marijuana to fight the seizures. However, Harper Grace has yet to receive her first dose of CBD oil from Mississippi. The problem is that the Harper Grace Law restricted the production of CBD oil to the University of Mississippi Medical Center and, due to a number of federal regulatory restrictions particular to the medical center, the hospital has yet to produce any CBD oil. Consequently, since the passage of the law, Harper Grace, and patients like her, have yet to receive any relief in Mississippi.

6. What about the CBD that is available in some of the stores in Mississippi?
In 2014, Congress approved legislation, known as the Farm Bill, that allows states that have legalized hemp cultivation to cultivate and study industrial hemp, either through institutions of higher education or the state department of agriculture, to determine if hemp farming would be beneficial to American farmers. Hemp can be used for thousands of products, including rope, textiles, clothing, shoes, food, and paper, to name a few. 

CBD hemp oil can also be extracted from the hemp plant. Therefore, some producers outside of Mississippi are manufacturing CBD products from hemp and not from marijuana. These hemp-derived CBD products can be found in some stores throughout Mississippi. However, Mississippi has not legalized hemp cultivation per the Farm Bill and, therefore, CBD products in Mississippi are technically not allowed per state law. The only law in place in Mississippi regarding CBD is Harper Grace’s Law, which requires that CBD can only be dispensed from UMMC. See question 5 to read more about Harper Grace’s Law. 

The hemp plant and the marijuana plant are two separate and different plants, although both are part of the cannabis plant family. For example, just as there are different varieties of the legume family (i.e. beans, peas, etc.), there are also different varieties of the cannabis plant family (i.e. hemp and marijuana). While the hemp plant is cultivated primarily for its long list of industrial uses, the marijuana plant is widely used for medicinal purposes through state medical marijuana programs. 

The marijuana plant has many different cannabinoids that work in concert with one another to provide the “entourage effect,” which benefits many patients who suffer from debilitating medical conditions. State medical marijuana programs provide patients with debilitating medical conditions safe and legal access to regulated whole-plant medicine instead of only CBD derived from agricultural hemp that is unregulated, which is what can be found in some stores in Mississippi.

7. So why do we need a medical marijuana program?
A medical marijuana program will allow patients access to whole plant medicine instead of only CBD, which is just one of many helpful cannabinoids in the plant. The many different cannabinoid chemical compounds found within whole plant medical marijuana were created to work in concert with one another in order to interact with the endocannabinoid system in our bodies. Many patients, including those who suffer from seizure disorders, find their symptoms are treated most effectively when they are allowed to use the full plant to medicate instead of only the CBD component.   In addition, the use of private businesses to grow and dispense the medical marijuana will avoid the problems of using a federally regulated medical center like the University of Mississippi.

8. Has the Mississippi Legislature ever considered legalizing medical marijuana?
Over the last several years, several legislators have introduced bills to make medical marijuana legal in Mississippi.  Unfortunately, none of those bills have been given a hearing or even a vote at the State Capitol.

how the regulatory process would work in mississippi

9. Doesn’t federal law prohibit the use of medical marijuana?
Federal law does not prevent states from removing state and local criminal penalties for the medical use of marijuana, which is what our initiative would do in Mississippi.  Nothing in the U.S. Constitution or federal law prohibits states from enacting penalties that differ from federal law that would prevent states from implementing their medical marijuana laws. Moreover, since late 2014, the appropriations acts approved by Congress have included riders to prevent federal funds from being used to interfere with medical marijuana laws.  President Donald Trump has signaled his support for allowing state medical marijuana laws to function without federal interference, and a federal appellate court has ruled that the federal government cannot punish — or even investigate — physicians for discussing or recommending the medical use of marijuana with patients. 

10. Can anyone get medical marijuana under your proposal?
No. Only those persons who have a debilitating medical condition as enumerated in the ballot initiative, have been examined by a Mississippi-licensed physician, and have obtained from that physician a certification which allows the patient to use medical marijuana.  The qualified patient will then use the physician certification to apply for a Medical Marijuana ID Card through the Mississippi Department of Health. Once the patient has obtained a Medical Marijuana ID Card, they may proceed to obtain treatment from a Medical Marijuana Treatment Center in the state of Mississippi. Medical marijuana will only be dispensed to qualified patients with valid Medical Marijuana ID Cards, and Medical Marijuana Treatment Centers will confirm the following according to the rules and regulations set by the Mississippi Department of Health: the patient has a valid Medical Marijuana ID Card that is not expired, and the patient has an available allotment to purchase according to the time frame and amount allowed per the state’s regulatory requirements.

11. How do you protect someone who is using medical marijuana from getting arrested?
A medical marijuana patient’s ID card, issued to every patient by the Mississippi Department of Health, prohibits the ID card holder from arrest by any state or local law enforcement official for possession of legally obtained medical marijuana.   

12. What factors determine qualification for a certification from a physician?
A physician may only certify medical marijuana after examining a patient in person and determining he or she meets one or more of the allowable diagnoses. A physician's decision to certify medical marijuana would be based upon his or her opinion that marijuana could benefit a patient. A parent of a minor must be present at the examination and provide written consent prior to the certification being issued on behalf of the minor.

13. Are physicians required to certify medical marijuana under your proposal?
No. Physicians are not required to certify medical marijuana just as they are not required to prescribe any other treatment method. This ballot initiative will grant physicians the freedom to certify medical marijuana to patients who may benefit from it.  The initiative’s language expressly states that physicians are never required to certify medical marijuana, but that they do have the option to do so.

14. What if a physician improperly certifies a patient for medical marijuana?
The same rules would apply for medical marijuana certifications as for any other medication improperly prescribed by a physician. Only physicians in good standing and licensed to practice medicine in the State of Mississippi can certify patients to use medical marijuana. Those physicians are regulated by the Mississippi Board of Medical Licensure who has the duty to protect the public and discipline physicians who do not practice according to the appropriate standard of care.  

15. How are physicians legally protected when they certify someone to use medical marijuana?
If adopted by the voters, the ballot initiative will become part of the state constitution.  The initiative includes a provision that provides physicians with legal protection for certifications for medical marijuana for persons diagnosed with a debilitating medical condition. 

16. Where will medical marijuana be available?
Medical marijuana will only be available at Medical Marijuana Treatment Centers licensed by the Mississippi Department of Health.

17. What is a medical marijuana business?
A medical marijuana business is any business that has applied for and received a license from the Mississippi Department of Health to cultivate, process, test, or sell medical marijuana. This may include: cultivation facilities (agricultural greenhouses where the plant is grown and harvested), testing facilities where the products are scientifically tested and approved, and dispensing centers (Medical Marijuana Treatment Centers) where patients can purchase the medicine.

18. Who will oversee and regulate Medical Marijuana Treatment Centers in Mississippi?
Medical Marijuana Treatment Centers will be registered with, licensed, and regulated by the Mississippi Department of Health.

19. How will a Medical Marijuana Treatment Center work?  What will I do once I get there?
A medical marijuana patient will show his or her Medical Marijuana ID Card at the front desk. The associate will swipe the ID card into the medical marijuana patient database to verify the patient’s information and that there is an available amount of medical marijuana allowed to be dispensed. The patient will then be able to speak with a medical marijuana patient advocate to discuss treatment options and purchase their medicine. 

20. What is medical marijuana and what kind of medical marijuana product will be available in Mississippi?  How will I know what to choose or how much to take?
Medical marijuana is state-regulated marijuana that is obtained from a licensed treatment center in Mississippi and that is provided to qualified patients.  It can be offered in varying forms, some of which include beverages, topicals, patches, tinctures, sprays, juices, smoking, vaporizing, edibles, capsules, lozenges, creams, and ointments.  Offering medical marijuana in multiple forms allows patients to utilize their treatment in the way that works best for them. Certain methods get into the bloodstream more quickly, therefore providing immediate relief, while other forms may take longer to enter the bloodstream but may provide longer-lasting relief. The preferred method will depend upon patients’ preferences for ingestion, and the type of pain and symptoms they wish to alleviate. Patient advocates will be able to assist each patient at the Medical Marijuana Treatment Centers to help them find and choose what may work best for them. 

21. What training will be required for employees of Medical Marijuana Treatment Centers?
The Mississippi Department of Health will regulate requirements for employees of Medical Marijuana Treatment Centers.  

22. Will there be limits to the amount and frequency that patients can obtain medical marijuana treatment?
Yes. Just as other states that allow the use of medical marijuana have limits regarding the amount and frequency by which patients can obtain treatment, Mississippi will as well. Other states impose limits that range from 1 ounce to 8 ounces.  The Mississippi initiative will limit each patient to obtaining or possessing no more than 2.5 ounces of medical marijuana every fourteen days. 

23. Does this initiative allow for home grow? Will there be people growing medical marijuana in my neighborhood?
No. Qualified patients may only obtain medical marijuana from licensed Medical Marijuana Treatment Centers.  Although some states with medical marijuana programs allow patients to grow medical marijuana on their own property, Mississippi’s proposal will require medical marijuana patients to purchase medication from licensed and regulated Medical Marijuana Treatment Centers.

This medical marijuana initiative was drafted to allow the Mississippi Department of Health to most effectively and efficiently regulate the program while providing a free market approach for businesses to engage in the growing, processing, and selling of medical marijuana. Adding a home grow component to the initiative would have complicated the regulatory process and added to the cost of that regulation. Given the free market approach to the business side of the initiative, we believe medical marijuana will be readily available to any patient who qualifies for the program.

24. Will the number of medical marijuana businesses in the state be limited?
No. It will be a free market and there will not be a limit imposed per this initiative. Each medical marijuana business will have to apply to, and be approved and licensed by, the Mississippi Department of Health. 

25. Will people be allowed to smoke medical marijuana in public?
No. The initiative makes it illegal to smoke medical marijuana in a public place.  In addition, the initiative does not override any public laws or private rules related to smoking in or on public or private places.

26. Can I use medical marijuana in a hospital, nursing home, or assisted living facility?
Using medical marijuana in a hospital, nursing home, or assisted living facility will depend upon the policies and rules of each facility.  Nothing in Mississippi’s initiative requires public or private businesses to make accommodations for the use of medical marijuana.  A facility may make restrictions on the legal use of medical marijuana on their premises, so it is important to be familiar with the rules and policies of those facilities. The initiative does make it illegal to smoke medical marijuana in a public place.

There is currently no consensus among health care facilities in other states where medical marijuana is legal regarding consumption by patients and residents on the premises. It is common protocol for health care facilities to ask patients and residents about current drug regimens when the patient or resident enters the facility.  With medical marijuana, some hospitals have taken the "don't ask, don't tell" position as they do not want to assume any risk for knowingly allowing the consumption of a federally-illegal substance on their property.  Other facilities have developed procedures for allowing the consumption of medical marijuana on the premises with certain protocols, such as securing the medical marijuana in special lock boxes or by only allowing non-smokable delivery methods.

27. What is the purpose of Medical Marijuana ID Cards?
Medical Marijuana ID Cards serve as identification for qualified patients, caregivers, and employees of Medical Marijuana Treatment Centers. Medical Marijuana ID Cards are required for patients to purchase their medicine, and enables the amounts purchased to be tracked within the medical marijuana database, which each Medical Marijuana Treatment Center uses to dispense medication to patients. 

28. Will there be an expiration date for the Medical Marijuana ID Cards? What will the process for renewal be? 
Most states’ programs require a renewal annually, while some states allow for two- or three-year renewals. Mississippi will require an annual renewal unless the physician opts for a shorter time period.  To renew a Medical Marijuana ID Card, patients will need to complete an examination with a physician to determine if a qualifying medical condition is still present. The patient will then apply for their renewal card by submitting the physician certification to the Mississippi Department of Health. 

29. Will insurance cover the costs of medical marijuana treatment?
Insurance companies are not required to cover the costs of medical marijuana treatment.  Unless an insurance carrier or other third-party payer chooses to cover medical marijuana, the cost will be paid for out of pocket by the patient.

30. Will people under the age of 21 be able to use medical marijuana?
Individuals under the age of twenty-one will be able to use medical marijuana as a treatment, provided they receive a physician certification in an office visit attended by their parent or guardian who must provide written consent. Debilitating medical conditions affect children and teenagers just like they do adults.  Offering medical marijuana as a treatment option provides an alternative to the heavy pharmaceutical drugs that many children and teenagers use currently.  Families in other states have advocated for medical marijuana programs specifically for their children to have a safer and more effective option instead of only heavy drugs and medicines. 

31. Why should children be eligible for medical marijuana?
Children suffer from debilitating medical conditions, including seizure-related illnesses, for which medical marijuana has provided significant relief and reduced the symptoms of for many patients.  Medical marijuana is a helpful and effective treatment for children who either have not responded well to pharmaceutical drugs, or whose only other option is a strong cocktail of heavy pharmaceutical drugs. 

By making medical marijuana available for children, physicians will be able to provide alternative treatments, including those derived from the marijuana plant that contain low levels of THC, such as CBD oil, which provides relief to children suffering from seizures.

32. Will Mississippi allow caregivers to help children and elderly patients purchase and take their medical marijuana?
Yes. All states with medical marijuana programs authorize the use of caregivers to assist qualified patients who need help with their medicine. Mississippi’s initiative would allow this as well.  A caregiver is someone at least twenty-one years of age who has been granted caregiver status by the Mississippi Department of Health. Caregivers will be issued a Medical Marijuana ID Card specifically for caregivers that will include the patient’s name whom they are authorized to assist. The Caregiver Medical Marijuana ID Card will authorize caregivers to purchase medical marijuana on behalf of the patient and assist the patient with taking their medication. 

33. How will the regulations for this new program be paid for?
This will be a self-funding program. The program will pay for itself and will not require the use of any general fund tax dollars.  The initiative creates three sources of revenue for the Mississippi Department of Health to use in regulating and enforcing the medical marijuana program in the state.  Those sources are the cost of an ID card, licensing fees for treatment centers, and a charge at the point of retail purchase of medical marijuana that cannot exceed the state’s sales tax rate.  All of this revenue will go into a special fund for the Mississippi Department of Health to use exclusively for this program.  In order to get the program up and running, before funds are received, the initiative authorizes the Mississippi Department of Health to receive a loan from the special source funds maintained by the state treasury.  The proposal requires the repayment of any borrowed funds. 

34. How much will it cost to apply for a Medical Marijuana ID Card? 
The proposal allows the Mississippi Department of Health to charge up to $50 to obtain a Medical Marijuana ID Card and to renew the card. 

35. If the initiative is adopted by the voters, how long will it take before medical marijuana is available in Mississippi? 
Implementing a medical marijuana regulatory framework is something that 33 other states have done, and their experiences can be utilized in Mississippi.  The proposal requires the Mississippi Department of Health to have the program up and running no later than August 15, 2021, if the voters approve the initiative in the November 2020 general election. 

What does medical research say?

36. Are there any studies that demonstrate the effectiveness of medical marijuana?
The New England Journal of Medicine published research in 2017 that showed patients with Dravet syndrome who used CBD-oil (derived from the marijuana plant) had fewer convulsive seizures. Dravet syndrome is a complex childhood epilepsy disorder that is associated with drug-resistant seizures.

The European Journal of Internal Medicine published groundbreaking research indicating the therapeutic use of marijuana is a safe and effective treatment for symptoms associated with cancer and pain in patients over age 65 and may decrease the use of other prescription medications, including opioids. 

The American Pain Society reported in the Journal of Pain that the daily use of marijuana can be a safe component of a carefully monitored pain management program when conventional treatments have been considered medically inappropriate or inadequate.

The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine published a report in 2017 of a rigorous review of scientific research published since 1999 about the health impacts of marijuana and the products derived from marijuana.  The report concluded there is conclusive or substantial evidence that marijuana and its derivative cannabinoids are effective: 

  • For the treatment of chronic pain in adults.

  • For the treatment of chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting

  • For improving patient-reported multiple sclerosis spasticity symptoms 

37. Why isn’t there more ongoing research?
Marijuana is one of the tightest-controlled substances under federal law. The U.S. government considers it a Schedule I drug, meaning the Drug Enforcement Administration considers it to have no medical value. To do research on marijuana, scientists need approval from several federal departments, which is rare because the government considers it Schedule I.

Conducting clinical research in the United States on medical marijuana involves receiving approval from several federal agencies. This includes a registration from the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA); obtaining the marijuana for research from the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), within the National Institutes of Health; and review by the FDA of an investigational new drug (IND) application and research protocol. Additionally, because marijuana is currently listed as a Schedule I controlled substance under the Controlled Substances Act, the DEA has additional Schedule I-level security requirements at the site marijuana will be studied. These bureaucratic hurdles have hindered many research facilities from researching the effects of marijuana on various medical conditions. However, there is considerable medical research being conducted in other parts of the world. 

38. Has there been any research conducted on the effectiveness of medical marijuana used in treat PTSD among veterans?
There is only one FDA-approved study trial for the effects of marijuana in veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). This study is being conducted in Scottsdale, Arizona and is in Phase-2 of research. Because this research is ongoing, no results have been published from this study yet.

Some limited studies suggest a potential decrease in PTSD symptoms with the use of medical marijuana, however there is a lack of large-scale trials confirming these findings at this time.

39. Why does the Epilepsy Foundation of Mississippi support the initiative?
The Mississippi Epilepsy Foundation and the national Epilepsy Foundation are committed to supporting physician-directed care, and to exploring and advocating for all potential treatment options for epilepsy, including cannabidiol (CBD) oil and medical cannabis. They support safe, legal access to medical cannabis and CBD if a patient and their health care team feel that the potential benefits of medical cannabis or CBD for uncontrolled epilepsy outweigh the risks. 

40. Is medical marijuana dangerous and addictive like opioids? Is it a “gateway” drug?
Although, many prescribed medicines can be dangerous and are addictive, there is not conclusive evidence that medical marijuana is dangerous and/or addictive. In fact, the body is able to stop receiving medical marijuana without the withdrawal symptoms that one may experience from use of opioids, and medical marijuana has been found to help opioid-dependent or addicted individuals to safely and effectively come off their opioids without experiencing the severity of painful withdrawal symptoms, which often are the reason why people continue using opioids instead of successfully stopping the use of them.

The National Academy of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine reported in Marijuana and Medicine: Assessing the Science Base that, " ‘there is no conclusive evidence that the drug effects of marijuana are causally linked to the subsequent abuse of other illicit drugs.’ The report cautioned the acceptance of any data on marijuana as a gateway drug because it may not apply the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes.  Just because marijuana could be available for medical use does not mean that users would be more likely to turn to harder illicit drugs. Finally, there is a broad social concern that legalizing medical marijuana might increase its use among the general population. There is no convincing data that shows that the illegal use of marijuana would increase if the medical use of marijuana were as closely regulated as other medications with abuse potential.”

41. How does medical marijuana affect the opioid crisis in America?
A study by JAMA (Journal of the American Medical Association) documented that opioid overdoses are as much as 25% lower in states where medical marijuana has been made available as an alternative to opioids compared with states without medical marijuana laws.  There are no reported deaths from a marijuana overdose; however, opioid overdoses continue to climb. The New York State Department of Health recently began urging doctors to consider medical marijuana as an alternative to prescribing opioids for patients with severe pain. New York joins New Jersey and Pennsylvania as states that are using marijuana to treat opioid withdrawal. The JAMA researchers concluded that if medical marijuana legalization can continue to be linked to reductions in opioid overdose deaths, then the legalization of medical marijuana can be advocated as part of a comprehensive attack to reduce the risk of opioids.

What are other states doing?

42. What other states have implemented medical marijuana programs? 
A total of 33 states and Washington, D.C. have made medical marijuana available (17 through ballot initiatives, and 16 through legislative action), allowing more than 2.8 million Americans with a proper diagnosis to use medical marijuana. These include Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Utah, Vermont, Washington, Washington D.C., West Virginia.  

43. On average, how many people in each state become medical marijuana patients? 
For the states with medical marijuana programs, the numbers range from between 0.01% to 3.15% of each states’ respective total population. For example, Arizona’s total population is approximately seven million people and there are approximately 153,000 patients enrolled in its medical marijuana program, which is 2.2% of the total population. 

44. What has been the experience of other states that have made medical marijuana available? 
No state that has made medical marijuana available has repealed it. Medical marijuana patients report reduced pain and symptoms of their debilitating medical conditions, and increased quality of life.  

45. How are medical marijuana programs regulated in other states? 
Every state’s programs are implemented and regulated by each state’s and Washington D.C.’s respective Department of Health; require Medical Marijuana ID Cards to identify patients who are approved to purchase medical marijuana; authorize the use of caregivers to assist patients who need help purchasing and using medical marijuana (i.e. a caregiver for an elderly person or a child); require a physician examination and certification before a patient is authorized to obtain a Medical Marijuana ID Card and then purchase medical marijuana; requires a renewal of the physician certification and the Medical Marijuana ID Card to keep the patient status current (most programs require a renewal annually; Mississippi will require an annual renewal unless the physician chooses a shorter time period); regulate and provide licenses to the businesses that produce and dispense medical marijuana to qualifying patients; and regulate the amount of medical marijuana that can be sold to patients within the allowable time period.

46. How do the medical marijuana programs work in the nearby states of Louisiana, Florida, Arkansas, and Oklahoma?

Louisiana’s medical marijuana law was originally enacted by the state legislature in 2015, then amended in 2016, and expanded in 2018 to include more debilitating medical conditions like PTSD, severe autism, and chronic pain. Louisiana’s program requires patients to obtain a doctor’s recommendation to purchase certain medical marijuana products such as tinctures, oils, salves, patches, edibles, capsules, and other concentrated forms of the medicine. The program is regulated by the Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry, the Louisiana Board of Pharmacy, and the Louisiana State Board of Medical Examiners.

Louisiana’s medical marijuana program originally included regulations that restricted patient access to medical marijuana, such as a cap established in 2016 limiting physicians to only 100 medical marijuana patients as well as a requirement that patients see their doctor after 90 days in order to continue treatment. The Louisiana Board of Medical Examiners has since removed both restrictions in order to allow patients greater access to medical marijuana. 

Unlike the Mississippi proposal, which creates a free market for regulated businesses to provide medical marijuana, the Louisiana proposal stipulates that medical marijuana can only be grown and provided to pharmacies by the agricultural centers at Louisiana State University and Southern University, which are both partnering with national corporations to grow the state’s medical marijuana; and, the Louisiana’s program only allows up to ten pharmacies where medical marijuana can be sold throughout the state. The pharmacies will be regulated by the Louisiana Board of Pharmacy. It is projected that patients will be able to begin purchasing medical marijuana in 2019; no patients have yet been served by Louisiana’s medical marijuana program. 

Due to regulatory hurdles, Louisiana’s program has experienced delay and patients have not received access to medical marijuana. Louisiana’s regulators have taken years to determine the program’s regulations related to choosing and licensing a limited number of pharmacies and limiting medical marijuana to only be grown at two places, which are both state universities. 

Mississippi’s proposal does not limit the number of Medical Marijuana Treatment Centers (where medication can be cultivated, processed, and dispensed) and requires the Mississippi Department of Health to have the program up and running no later than August 15, 2021, just nine months after the vote will take place on the November 2020 ballot. 

Florida’s medical marijuana program was overwhelmingly passed in November 2016 by voters in favor of medical marijuana by more than 71% after a successful state-wide ballot initiative campaign. Although Florida’s program became official in January of 2017, the state government has been slow to enact the necessary regulations for patients to get access, and the process has been mired in legal red tape. Florida’s program allows qualified patients to obtain a medical marijuana ID card and purchase their medicine after being examined by and receiving a recommendation for medical marijuana from their doctor. The program is regulated by the Florida Department of Health.

Unlike the Mississippi proposal, which creates a free market for regulated businesses to provide medical marijuana, Florida’s program only allows a limited number of licenses to Medical Marijuana Treatment Centers (medical marijuana businesses authorized to cultivate, process and dispense medical marijuana), with preference given for up to two licenses to applicants that own one or more facilities that are or were used for processing citrus fruit or citrus molasses in some way and will convert the facility or facilities for the processing of medical marijuana. These regulatory stipulations, among others, have led to lawsuits and caused delay to Florida’s program implementation.

Although Florida’s program is still being implemented to a fuller extent, the program is functioning and patients are being served. Florida’s program stipulated that once the medical marijuana statewide database reached a 100,000-patient threshold, four additional licenses would be issued within six months; the database reached the 100,000 threshold in May 2018. As of September 2018, Florida’s database accounts for more than 166,000 total patients. 

Mississippi’s proposal does not limit the number of Medical Marijuana Treatment Centers (where medication can be cultivated, processed, and dispensed) and requires the Mississippi Department of Health to have the program up and running no later than August 15, 2021, just nine months after the vote will take place on the November 2020 ballot. 

Arkansas passed Amendment 98 to their State Constitution by more than 53% after a successful state-wide ballot initiative campaign in 2016. Regulations were established in May of 2017, but the implementation of the medical marijuana program has been delayed due to legal challenges and licensing delays. Arkansas’ program requires patients to be certified by a licensed physician, and to provide the certification to the Arkansas Department of Health to obtain a medical marijuana ID card. The program is regulated by Arkansas Department of Health.

 Unlike the Mississippi proposal, which creates a free market for regulated businesses to provide medical marijuana, Arkansas’ program only allows a limited number of licenses to Medical Marijuana Treatment Centers (medical marijuana businesses authorized to cultivate, process and dispense medical marijuana), which has caused delay to the program’s implementation due to lawsuits over the available licenses. 

The Arkansas program allows five growers and 40 dispensaries statewide. No patients have yet been served by Arkansas’ medical marijuana program. Medical marijuana business cultivators hope to begin growing in spring of 2019, with medical marijuana products becoming available to patients in summer of 2019.

Mississippi’s proposal does not limit the number of Medical Marijuana Treatment Centers (where medication can be cultivated, processed, and dispensed) and requires the Mississippi Department of Health to have the program up and running no later than August 15, 2021, just nine months after the vote will take place on the November 2020 ballot. 

Oklahoma voters approved medical marijuana in June of 2018 by passing Question 788 with 56% approval following a successful ballot initiative. Oklahoma’s program requires patients to be certified by a licensed physician, and to provide the certification to the Oklahoma Medical Marijuana Authority to obtain a medical marijuana ID card. The program is regulated by the Oklahoma Medical Marijuana Authority, which operates under the Oklahoma Department of Health.

The Oklahoma Medical Marijuana Authority began issuing licenses to medical marijuana businesses in September 2018. As of November of 2018, Oklahoma’s program has more than 13,000 patients and more than 600 licensed businesses to grow and dispense medical marijuana. Oklahoma is experiencing lawsuits against the state on behalf of Oklahoma dispensary owners and growers who are currently looking to reduce the number and size of fees faced by medical marijuana businesses. Even so, patients already have access to medical marijuana in Oklahoma. 

Oklahoma’s program allows individuals to grow up to six medical marijuana plants in their own homes. Mississippi’s medical marijuana program will not allow home grow and requires the Mississippi Department of Health to have the program up and running no later than August 15, 2021, just nine months after the vote will take place on the November 2020 ballot.


47. What is a ballot initiative in Mississippi?
Mississippi’s ballot initiative law allows citizens to directly amend the Mississippi Constitution, and the ballot initiative process itself is set forth in the Mississippi Constitution. For an initiative to be placed on the ballot, a minimum of 86,185 certified signatures must be gathered with at least 17,237 certified signatures from each of the five congressional districts as they existed in the year 2000. The signatures must be certified by county circuit clerks.

48. Do you really think Mississippi could get a medical marijuana program? Will you be able to get enough signatures to put it on the November 2020 ballot?
Absolutely! We have been overwhelmed at the positive response we have received since we began gathering signatures. Thousands of Mississippians agree that we need medical marijuana here in our state. Countless personal testimonies have been shared, and we are growing a community of patients and advocates here in our home state. We need more than 86,000 verified voter signatures on our petitions to put medical marijuana on the ballot. That’s a lot of signatures, but we are well on our way. Every signature counts. 

49. How does signing a petition for the Medical Marijuana 2020 ballot initiative work? Is my signature on file as public record? 
The signed petitions will be turned in to the circuit clerk’s office in each county, which is where each signer’s voter registration is on public record, in order to verify each person’s signature. While signing a petition is a public record and an official affidavit, it’s no more public than being registered to vote. 

50. What is the Medical Marijuana 2020 ballot initiative?
The Medical Marijuana 2020 ballot initiative is a campaign to make medical marijuana available to Mississippians who have debilitating medical conditions in a legal and safe manner. If approved by the voters in November 2020, patients who are suffering will be able to obtain medical marijuana after they are examined by Mississippi licensed physicians and certified to use medical marijuana. 

To get the initiative on the November 2020 ballot requires more than 86,000 signatures on petitions. Once the signatures are verified by local officials and the Secretary of State, the proposed amendment will appear on the November 2020 ballot. That amendment, if approved by Mississippi voters, would allow physicians to certify medical marijuana for qualified patients and then allow those patients to obtain medical marijuana in a legal and safe manner from treatment centers licensed and regulated by the Mississippi Department of Health.

A total of 33 other states, including Arkansas, Louisiana, Florida, and Oklahoma have approved the use of medical marijuana. Throughout the country, more than 2.8 million Americans are using medical marijuana to relieve pain and treat other symptoms of debilitating medical conditions.

The Mississippi Department of Health would regulate and enforce the provisions of this initiative in order to ensure safe access and use of medical marijuana for qualified patients.

51. What do physicians in Mississippi think about this initiative, and who else is backing this initiative?
While we cannot speak for all physicians in Mississippi, we can say that this initiative is supported by medical and health care professionals who are part of the steering committee, and that physicians were included in the drafting of the initiative language at MSMA (Mississippi State Medical Association). The steering committee also includes law enforcement representatives, leaders in the faith community, and veterans. Please click here to see the full list of steering committee members. 

As a physician, this would be a wonderful tool to have in my toolbelt to be able to certify for patients who meet the qualifications. There is a great deal of research that shows medical marijuana to be beneficial to patients dealing with diseases like cancer, epilepsy, and the other diseases on the approved list.  – Dr. Philip Levin, M.D., President of the Mississippi Chapter of the American College of Emergency Physicians

52. Why is this ballot initiative important?

  • The goal of this campaign is to provide qualifying patients in Mississippi who are suffering from debilitating medical conditions access to medical marijuana. It would simply serve as an additional tool for doctors to help people who are in pain or who have chronic diseases, for whom medical marijuana would help make it through the day.

  • Governor Phil Bryant signed a bill into law called “Harper Grace’s Law,” named after a little girl who suffers from a rare type of epilepsy that causes violent seizures, that would legalize the use of CBD oil for certain kinds of medical conditions in 2014.  In other states, children like Harper Grace have used medical marijuana to fight the seizures. This ballot initiative will give Harper Grace, and other patients who qualify, access to medical marijuana to provide relief from pain and other symptoms of debilitating medical conditions. 

  • Veterans now account for 20% of all suicides in the United States; 18-22 veterans commit suicide every day, many of them suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. Medical marijuana is a safe and effective treatment to assist veterans in managing the debilitating symptoms and effects of PTSD.

  • Medical marijuana is a much safer alternative to opioids for pain management. It can be used in place of opioids, or in conjunction with opioids (i.e. in some cases, medical marijuana can be used to manage ongoing pain, and if needed an opioid for severe breakthrough pain). Additionally, opioid overdoses are as much as 25% lower in states where medical marijuana is available as an alternative to opioids.

53. Who will be helped by allowing medical marijuana in Mississippi? What debilitating medical conditions will be covered? 
Mississippians who have the following debilitating medical conditions would qualify for medical marijuana: 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, and similar diseases.