What supporters and opponents of medical marijuana want you to know before Election Day

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JACKSON, Miss. (WJTV) – The final public hearing for medical marijuana coming on the ballot in November amending the state constitution finished up tonight in efforts to convince voters to vote for or against it.

Hosted by the Secretary of State the event had four speakers arguing for or against two versions of the bill brought on by people and legislators.

With Election Day three weeks out this was the last chance for registered voters in Mississippi to understand what they’re looking at on the ballot to either allow or not allow medical marijuana in the state or a restricted version drawn up by lawmakers.

Angie Calhoun, a mother to a child who relied on medical marijuana treatment to save his life was the first to speak. Saying this vote could be the difference between life and death for many.

“I truly don’t know,” she said about where her son would be if it weren’t for it. “He might be dead.”

At age 17 her son Austin fell ill with chronic lime disease attacking his nervous system. She was forced to relocate him to another state where she witnessed regulated medical marijuana treatment.

“We went to see a doctor who certifies medical marijuana patients and then that is sent to the state department of health,” Calhoun added. “They will issue a medical marijuana card. Every form is not smokable and inhalation helps people who have chronic nausea and vomiting.”

Some form of medical marijuana is legal in 34 other states. But members of the Mississippi State Board of Health like Jim Perry spoke against all bills allowing it. Accusing the industry from out of the state of promoting addiction.

“Section two on initiative 65 specifically gives the big out of state Marijuana companies or any of its offices, owners, employees, contractors and agents immunity for any criminal or civil sanctions,” Perry warned. “Some of my friends say we should legalize marijuana and tax it like we do cigarettes or Alcohol. The specific language of initiative 65 would make that constitutionally impossible.”

In the wake of medical marijuana under initiative 65 making it to the ballot legislators responded with their own version, Alternative 65A. Though this has no clear list of qualifying diseases it would operate on a capped budget through taxpayers.

“This is a question of whether we’ll choose unelected bureaucrats to hand out permits to a $14 billion industry on the one hand,” Andy Taggart who spoke for the bill said. “Or as 65A would provide I trust our elected officials to do their jobs.”

Dr. Thomas Dobbs also spoke in favor of Alternative 65A but another doctor pointed to bills for medical marijuana brought up over the last 20 years and never getting anywhere.

More than a dozen people spoke afterward voicing their support or opposition. Many for initiative 65 pointed to the drug being distributed in small amounts and containing only CBD unlike what’s sold on the street.

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