Group pushes for legalization of marijuana

Courtesy Photo
Courtesy Photo

The debate over the legalization of marijuana is affecting many states across the U.S., including Mississippi.

Recently, a group banded together to create a ballot initiative that, if passed, will both legalize and decriminalize marijuana in the state of Mississippi.  

For legalization, the group wants adults 21 and older to be able to use marijuana as freely as they can alcohol and tobacco products.  

While many students on campus are in favor of legalization, many students are not.

Jacob Fitzgerald, a junior healthcare marketing major at Southern Miss, said Mississippi could use its resources for a direct initiative toward legislation that holds more importance.  He said many other issues need to be taken care of first.

As for how legalization could affect students, Fitzgerald said, “I feel like it will all be up to personal responsibility. Some people can use mind-altering substances in a responsible way, whether that be marijuana or alcohol, and some cannot.”

Junior biochemistry major David Sliman is also against the initiative.  He said this legalization could hurt Mississippi, making it more dependent on other states.

“Mississippi is already addicted to cash crops and thus has to import most of its fresh foods,” Sliman said. “Adding more cash crops to the market might stimulate the economy of local farming areas but would lead to more import dependence of freshly (grown) foods.”

On the other side, a Southern Miss employee who wishes not to be named is in favor of parts of the ballot initiative.

“While I don’t think the pay-to-grow initiative is the right call, it’s a step in the right direction,” he said.  “It should be legalized, regulated, heavily taxed and the tax money appropriated to the areas of the most need (education, health and public safety).”

Adults will be allowed to grow cannabis.  If they choose to grow nine plants or less, they can gift and barter these with no taxation.  

Cannabis farms, territories of 10 plants or more, will be charged a $25 residential fee, which will be kept by the locality.  If the plot is much larger than 10 plants, a higher fee may be put into place.

Under this initiative, adults will be allowed to sell cannabis as well.  They will be required to get a sales license from Alcoholic Beverage Control and to charge a 10 percent sales tax.  These taxes will benefit Mississippi public schools.

“Honest suppliers with an honest product,” said Kelly Jacobs, a community activist for Team #LegalizeMS.

 All territories that contain cannabis will be required to have a fence surrounding them.  Also, any illegal activity such as a minor in possession and selling to minors will be treated just as if they were crimes involving alcohol or tobacco.

As far as the decriminalization aspect of the ballot, it asks the governor to pardon those imprisoned for non-violent cannabis convictions. 

In order for the initiative to have an official ballot initiative number, the secretary of state will look over the petition.  Then, they will send the ballot initiative to the attorney general who will issue a certificate of review.

Once everything becomes official, advocates can begin to collect signatures from registered voters.  They need roughly 110,000 signatures before they bring it before the Mississippi State Legislature.

Though this initiative is still in the beginning stages, it could affect Mississippi in a big way.  For more information regarding #LegalizeMS, visit their page on Facebook “Legalize Marijuana in Mississippi.”