Our View: Medical Marijuana push has some unexpected allies

August 9, 2018 10:41:50 AM



There is currently a grassroots effort (pun intended) to put medical marijuana on the ballot in Mississippi in November 2020. 


Legal weed in Mississippi? 


When pigs fly, right? 


Normally, we'd be much inclined to agree that the idea that Mississippi would legalize marijuana in practically any form would be, well, a pipe dream (we can't help ourselves in the pun department). 


After all, Mississippi is about as conservative a state as there is and the idea of legal marijuana is something conservatives -- especially pain-free conservatives -- simply won't abide. 


Previous efforts to get a medical marijuana bill on the ballot -- most recently in 2015 -- have failed to collect the required 100,000 signatures. 


Then, as now, the effort has attracted a variety of medical professionals, counselors, Democratic legislators and advocacy groups. 


So what's different this time? 


The "usual suspects" pushing for medical marijuana have attracted what might be considered some strange bedfellows -- even here in the Golden Triangle. 


This effort is being led by a group called Medical Marijuana 2020. 


Rep. Rep. Kabir Karriem, and District Attorney Scott Colom, both Democrats, are on the 58-person steering committee. But folks might be surprised to know they are joined on the committee by two Republicans -- Rep. Jeff Smith of Columbus and Rob Roberson of Starkville. 


The two Republicans are hardly outliers, either. 


Among those on the steering committee are other Republican legislators as well as the leaders of two Conservative PACs -- Empower Mississippi and America Liberty PAC -- as well as the CEO of the Mississippi Center for Public Policy, a conservative think tank, and the publisher of Mississippi Christian Living magazine. 


Add those voices to the scores of health care professionals who have long insisted that medical marijuana is an effective and safe alternative to other pain-management medications -- most notably opioids -- and the prospects of taking the matter to the voters in 2020 brighten considerably. 


Mississippi generally lags in these kinds of issues. 


Already 31 states have legalized marijuana and polls show that 93 percent of all voters -- and more, importantly here in Mississippi -- 85% of Republicans favor medical marijuana. 


For good reason, too. Studies show that states that have passed medical marijuana legislation have seen a 25 percent reduction in opioid-related deaths. 


Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant remains opposed and, perhaps, reflects the entrenched attitudes that defy any efforts to take a more enlightened look at the subject. 


But if medical marijuana is on the ballot in 2020, Bryant won't be governor. He'll just be a voter. 


The question then will be how many other voters share the former Governor's visceral opposition to medical marijuana. 


Pigs may yet fly in Mississippi come 2020.