GULFPORT, Miss. (WLOX) - Thirty-four states across the fruited plain have legalized medical marijuana. In less than two months, voters will decide if Mississippi is number 35.
Paul Robinson and his family were enjoying time together on a South Mississippi Sunday about four years ago. At the end of the night, everybody said goodnight and went to bed.
“...about six hours later Jenna passed away,” Robinson lamented. Robinson’s daughter died of SUDEP, or Sudden Unexplained Death in Epilepsy Patients, a condition that he said could have been helped by medical marijuana.
“Our daughter Jenna suffered from epilepsy,” Robinson said. “She was refractory, which meant that the items on the pharmaceutical shelf were no longer giving relief to her. This is a fact that one in three epilepsy patients go through this. Medical marijuana has been a tremendous plus for patients with epilepsy. It’s probably one of the most promising things in decades, for epilepsy patients."
The health and welfare of human beings should be the topic of discussion, Robinson said, when talking about Initiative 65.
“I want people who are having problems to get relief. It’s going to be between you and your doctor. Why would we deny any patients this that need it? I firmly believe Jenna would still be with us, and she would be doing this today if medical marijuana had been available,” Robinson said.
Even as an elected, political figure, Ocean Springs Mayor Shea Dobson has been vocal about his support for Initiative 65.
“This is one of those instances where I think we need to recognize that the people believe in one thing and the politicians believe in another. I’ll always stand with the people over the politicians. It’s as simple as that," Dobson said. “This is one of those issues where you need to stand on principles and you need to stand on your convictions. When I say that government should get out of healthcare, I mean it. I’m going to support (Initiative 65) regardless of how controversial of a topic because I believe in my philosophy and I believe in this initiative."
Jamie Grantham, the Communications Director for Mississippians for Compassionate Care, also believes passionately in this initiative.
“Initiative 65 as placed on the ballot by more than 228,000 Mississippians who want medical marijuana here in the state of Mississippi to help those with debilitating medical conditions like cancer, ALS, epilepsy, other seizure disorders, Parkinson’s Disease, and sickle-cell anemia,” Grantham said.
State legislators, according to Grantham, only added Initiative 65A to the ballot to confuse Mississippians when it was time to make a decision. The option put forward by Mississippians for Compassionate Care, Grantham said, was favored state-wide.
“We know that 81% or Mississippians support the medical use of marijuana for patients suffering from debilitating diseases. We also know that in 34 other states, medical marijuana is changing lives. It’s not a cure-all for everything, but it is certainly helping millions who otherwise are not able to get relief from traditional pharmaceutical medications,” she said.
Initiative 65 would amend the state constitution to allow for patients with 22 pre-determined qualifying medical conditions to be prescribed and use medical marijuana in the state of Mississippi. Grantham said that 65 is the responsible choice.
“It’s actually a conservative measure. It’s clearly defined. It would be self-funded through the ID cards for patients. It would be self-funded through the user fee that would be on retail purchases and all of that goes right back to the department of health who would regulate the program to make sure we have a model program here in Mississippi," Grantham said.
“65A, on the other hand, was thrown together by politicians and doesn’t have any guarantees, doesn’t have a program start date, it has no list of qualifying debilitating medical conditions, and it leaves all of the decision making up to politicians to decide when, if ever, they might produce a program. We know from past experience, over the past decade, they have blocked every single piece of legislation to pass a medical marijuana program through the legislative process,” she said.
For more information on the fight against Initiative 65 click here.