JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - The Mississippi State Medical Association (MSMA) and American Medical Association (AMA) are urging Mississippians to vote “NO” on Initiative Measure No. 65 this November.
The initiative will appear on this year’s ballot as voters will have the option to vote either for or against Initiative Measure No. 65 and Alternative Measure No. 65A.
Initiative 65 would allow qualified patients with debilitating medical conditions, including cancer, epilepsy, and ALS, to be certified to use medical marijuana by Mississippi-licensed physicians. Alternative 65A would also legalize medical marijuana in the state, but it would restrict use to terminally ill patients, and require treatment oversight by licensed officials.
Opponents of Initiative 65 say that it would require the Mississippi State Department of Health to take on extra responsibility including the distribution of a substance that is illegal under federal law.
Proponents of Initiative 65 argue that Alternative 65A is too restrictive and was only placed on the ballot to confuse voters and dilute support for Initiative 65.
A survey found that over 80% of Mississippians support the legalization of medical marijuana.
“We know that 81% or Mississippians support the medical use of marijuana for patients suffering from debilitating diseases. We also know that in 34 other states, medical marijuana is changing lives," said Jamie Grantham, the Communications Director for Mississippians for Compassionate Care. “It’s not a cure-all for everything, but it is certainly helping millions who otherwise are not able to get relief from traditional pharmaceutical medications.”
Still, state health officials say they are concerned about the lack of medical evidence that supports cannabis for medicinal use.
“Physicians advocate for evidence-based solutions,” said MSMA President Mark Horne, MD. “When we were asked to review Initiative 65, it was immediately clear that this is an effort focused on generating profits for an industry that has no ties to the medical or health care community in Mississippi. That is just one of many red flags that makes a NO vote essential.”
For these reasons, state health officials agree that Initiative 65 would cause more harm than good to the public’s health.
“It’s no secret that the State of Mississippi works overtime to try and effectively provide public health resources to our most vulnerable citizens,” said Thomas Dobbs, MD, the state public health officer. “Initiative 65 would inappropriately require us to divert already-limited resources for the benefit of an incredibly complicated industry. Fees and charges generated would only be available to support the marijuana program. No revenue would be available to support the state, communities or public health efforts.”
If approved, Initiative 65 would be amended into the state constitution.
“Amending a state constitution to legalize an unproven drug is the wrong approach,” said AMA President Susan R. Bailey, MD. “Early data from jurisdictions that have legalized cannabis are concerning, particularly around unintentional pediatric exposures that have resulted in increased calls to poison control centers and emergency department visits, as well as an increase in traffic deaths due to cannabis-related impaired driving.”
The doctors said the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved several cannabinoid-containing products, but they are worried that Initiative 65 would open the door for Mississippians to use nearly any product without FDA safety review.
The organizations emphasized that scientifically valid and well-controlled clinical trials are needed to ensure the safety and effectiveness of all new drugs.