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Thursday, 04 June 2015 00:00

One of the Boldest Cannabis Initiatives in History is Taking Place Right Now in Mississippi

Written by Stephen Bradley | Southern Cannabis
Dr. Mahmoud ElSohly has run the federal government’s Marijuana Research Project at the University of Mississippi since 1980. Dr. Mahmoud ElSohly has run the federal government’s Marijuana Research Project at the University of Mississippi since 1980.

Two Mississippi cannabis reform organizations have joined forces to end marijuana prohibition in their state, and if successful will pull off one of the most comprehensive pieces of citizen-generated legislation dealing with cannabis that we have seen yet. Proposition 48 is a ballot initiative that would not only legalize both medical and recreational marijuana in Mississippi but industrial hemp production as well. Additionally, Prop 48 calls on the Mississippi Governor to pardon all persons convicted of non-violent marijuana crimes.

Initiative Measure No. 48 would legalize the use, cultivation, sale of cannabis and industrial hemp. Cannabis related crimes would be punished in a manner similar to, or to a lesser degree, than alcohol related crimes. Cannabis sales would be taxed 7%. Cannabis sold for medical purposes and industrial hemp would be exempt from taxation. The Governor would be required to pardon persons convicted of non violent cannabis crimes against the State of Mississippi.

What’s in it?

According to a press release from organizers, the goals of Proposition 48 are:

 
  1. To legalize cannabis for adults so that it is regulated just like alcohol.
  2. To legalize Industrial Hemp so that farmers can grow it under the purview of the MS Dept of Agriculture which shall test their crops for THC levels (they do not pay the 7% sales tax).
  3. To allow adults to raise cannabis, no more than 9 plants for their personal, private use, and they can gift and barter their cannabis just like alcohol. Adults can raise more than 9 plants, but they are then defined as cannabis farmers, and have to pay an annual fee to their locality.
  4. To allow localities (city and county governments) to collect an annual fee of $25.00 or more, if a cannabis or industrial hemp farm is established in their territory, which is defined as an adult growing more than 10 cannabis plants, the more cannabis plants the higher the fee, not to exceed $1000.00. The locality keeps the fee, which can be adjusted every 5 years beginning in 2020.
  5. Cannabis will be taxed 7% with the exception of Industrial Hemp and medicinal cannabis, which are not taxed. The cannabis tax collected benefits Mississippi Public Schools and Universities until 2020 when it reverts to the general fund and the tax amount can be revisited bu t only if it is to be lowered.
  6. If adults want to sell cannabis, they can get an annual sales license from any County Circuit Clerk for $1000.00 and they are to charge a 7% sales tax, with the exception of Industrial Hemp farmers who do not need this license, nor to charge the tax. Businesses can sell the many types of cannabis products only to adults, that are available as long as they have a license: Florists, bakeries, co-ops, nurseries, pharmacies and dispensaries (no tax for medicinal cannabis), etc. The MS Dept of Health is to be directed by the MS Legislature to set up dispensaries and issue medical cannabis cards, similar to Arizona.
  7. Regulations/punishments about cannabis abuse are to be reduced by our legislature by so that they are no greater or even lesser than those for alcohol abuse.
  8. EMPTY OUR PRISONS and end parole and DRUG COURT for cannabis offenders. The governor shall implement this Constitutional amendment by pardoning current and former persons convicted of non -violent cannabis violations against the State of Mississippi who properly petition for the pardon . Compliance with our MS Constitution means they must first announce their request for pardon in a specific newspaper before they petition the governor for their pardon.
  9. Expungements: Currently, a person seeking expungment for a Mississippi cannabis conviction of simple possession, must petition the court where the conviction occurred, with notice to the prosecution, and the Judge will ultimately decide whether it will be granted or not. We asked that the MS Legislature amended our law to include the ability to expunge for manufacturing or sale of cannabis.

 A decentralized project

Part of what makes the initiative in Mississippi such a bold undertaking is the number of petition signatures organizers must gather in each of five legislative districts throughout the state. Each district requires 21,443 signatures for Prop 48 to make it to the ballot, and if any one of those districts fails to produce enough signatures then the measure automatically fails. The total number of voter signatures needed statewide is approximately 107,000.

To accomplish this organizers from two different legalization organizations, the Mississippi Alliance for Cannabis and Team Legalize, have teamed up to empower volunteers to collect the signatures needed, equipping them with petitions and voter registration forms and instructions for turning signatures in to their county court clerk. According to the initiative’s author, Kelly Jacobs, it is important for volunteers to act quickly in order to get the measure on the 2016 ballot.

“In order for BI 48 to appear on the 2016 presidential ballot, Mississippians must hurry and get their petitions certified by their Circuit Clerks no later than July 2015 so that they can all be submitted to the SOS no later than the October 2, 2015 deadline. If we do not have enough certified signatures by the October 2nd submission deadline, we can continue to collect signatures until our one year deadline 12/29/15 but then BI 48 would be presented on the 2017 ballot.”

Many people new to the idea of cannabis law reform are often surprised to learn that the federal government has been growing their own supply of marijuana in Mississippi for over 45 years.

Since 1968, the National Institute on Drug Abuse has contracted with the University of Mississippi to grow, harvest and process marijuana and to ship it to licensed facilities across the country for research purposes. The lab also collects samples of marijuana seized by police to determine its potency and to document national drug trends.

The federal marijuana farm serves as the only source of material for government-approved cannabis researchers across the country, and also provides a steady supply of marijuana for the few remaining members of a government-run program that began in 1978 known as the Investigational New Drug, or IND Program.

Here is a video with interviews from two patients who have been receiving marijuana through the IND Program for nearly 40 years. These patients receive 300 pre-rolled joints per month filled with cannabis that was grown in Mississippi.

How you can help

Collecting this many signatures from so many different parts of the state requires a lot of hands-on work and petition organizers need all the volunteers they can get. If you are interested in helping end cannabis prohibition in Mississippi here’s what you can do:

  1. If you haven’t yet, register to vote. You can download a Mississippi voter registration form here.
  2. This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. with your name, telephone number and county so that she can connect you with the appropriate person at Team Legalize.
  3. Like the Mississippi Alliance for Cannabis on Facebook to stay up-to-date with the latest news.

For more information about the initiative (or to find a petition you can sign) you can contact the Mississippi Alliance for Cannabis through their Facebook page, or by telephone at (601) 832-9144.

Link to original article from Southern Cannabis

 

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