- The following op-ed was written and submitted by Congressman Steven Palazzo (MS-04)
Mississippi has long been a safe place for families to raise their children; however, if ballot Initiative 65 is adopted, our way of life will be put in jeopardy. It is our job to equip the rising generation with the tools needed to succeed, and that does not come in the form of a Schedule I drug.
Recently, there have been efforts to fool Mississippians into creating America’s new marijuana capital in our own backyard. This November, Mississippi voters will be asked to adopt or strike down ballot Initiative 65. If Initiative 65 is adopted, marijuana dispensaries would be free to set up shop anywhere in our communities, creating a myriad of issues for law enforcement and health care officials.
Passage of this initiative would force licensed physicians to certify medical marijuana without issuing prescriptions, an uncommon practice that is highly troubling and neglectful. This open-ended language is certain to open the door to anyone who wants medical marijuana, and not just those with the stated qualifying conditions. Without accountability written in, an individual will be able to self-medicate using a federally illegal substance without consumption limitations. This is dangerous for Mississippians and the future of our state.
Many of our state law enforcement officials, doctors, legislators and hospitals have come out against medical marijuana and for good reason. Should Initiative 65 come to fruition as written, it will permanently alter Mississippi’s Constitution, giving oversight authority to unelected bureaucrats. Without reinvesting generated revenue into our state or additional public health resources, it’s clear this initiative is for profits over people. Moreover, Initiative 65 creates significant hurdles for our police officers to enforce laws regarding illegal use of marijuana due to the loose regulatory language.
The ballot initiative lacks strict guidelines on where a marijuana dispensary can be built and ties the hands of elected officials by prohibiting zoning laws from stopping the installment of a marijuana dispensary in your neighborhood. This lack of guidance allows marijuana stores to set up shop anywhere: next door to our schools, beside our churches, and around the corner from our daycares. This is reckless for our communities and would hamper the future success of our state.
Alternatively, voters will also have the chance to vote for or against Initiative 65A. This measure would allow the state legislature and appropriate state agencies to have management over the policies that regulate this new industry. Additionally, the scope of medical marijuana use will be limited to terminally ill patients, require pharmaceutical-grade products, and treatment oversight by licensed physicians, nurses and pharmacists. Our legislature can take the peoples wishes and formulate appropriate laws and regulations to suit the needs of Mississippi. By allowing elected officials to levy taxes, possession limits, zoning requirements, and other important details, communities across the state won’t be intruded on like Initiative 65 would do.
On November 3, I will be voting “NO” on Initiative 65 and Initiative 65A. This issue can be very personal for some in our state. If you are in support of medical marijuana, I would encourage you to support Initiative 65A over Initiative 65. Of the two, it is the better option that enables better management and implementation of this new industry through elected legislators rather than corrupting our state constitution.
Steven Palazzo is the Representative for Mississippi’s Fourth Congressional District. He is a U.S. Marine Corps veteran, member of the Mississippi National Guard, and former member of the Mississippi House of Representatives. In Congress, Steven serves on the House Appropriations Committee and is Chair of the House National Guard and Reserve Caucus.