A report about a delay in the one-year signature-gathering period for an initiative to legalize marijuana reinforces just how much of a surprise it was when voters overwhelmingly approved a medical marijuana initiative last year.
The new proposal, named Initiative 77, aims to replace the excessively worded Initiative 65 from 2020. The two measures are an excellent example of how victorious supporters of expanded marijuana rights in Mississippi were willing to live with half a loaf, while most others are far too eager to go all-in on the drug.
On the Mississippi secretary of state’s website, the first sentence of the opening statement for Initiative 77 clearly states its broad intentions. This sentence, among many others, makes it highly unlikely that this proposal will get anywhere close to a ballot: “Cannabis is a nutraceutical and metabolic necessity, and should be in the diet of all humans and animals to help control homeostasis!”
“Nutraceutical,” in case you are wondering, means a pharmaceutical product alternative that claims health benefits. “Homeostasis” describes the physical and chemical conditions needed for a body’s optimal functioning.
Good luck convincing a majority of voters that marijuana is a necessity. And when people are asked to join a petition to put this initiative to a vote read its statement, it will be a challenge to get 106,000 of them to sign.
Initiative 65, the one approved last year for medical marijuana, has obvious flaws. It does not require a sales tax. It does not give local governments any authority to decide where the businesses that sell the products may or may not locate. It mandated a greater regulatory burden on the Mississippi Department of Health just as the coronavirus arrived.
But Initiative 77 is so misguided that No. 65 looks tame by comparison.
Under 77, the possession and use of marijuana in all forms would be legal. Anyone could grow up to 99 marijuana plants without a license, and could trade or sell any of it that they don’t use. Marijuana-related arrests would have to involve a crime victim or property loss — not just possession. Finally, the state would have to release non-violent “cannabis POWs” and expunge their criminal records.
At least Initiative 77 calls for a 7 percent sales tax. If Mississippi is to take any leap of this kind, it should be one that produces revenue. But this doesn’t make up for the rest of the proposals, which can only be described as extreme.
The initiative is getting extra attention because the Mississippi Press Association inadvertently failed to send a required legal notice about it to five newspapers in the state. But like so many of its predecessors, this one is unlikely to get enough signatures to make the ballot.
The secretary of state’s website lists all 77 initiatives that have been proposed. At least 11 of them, including this latest one and the measure approved last year, are related to marijuana. It’s the hottest topic in Initiative World, but only last year’s went to a vote of the public.