Municipal League urges people to say ‘no’ to Initiatives 65 and 65A

Medical marijuana headed to Mississippi ballots in November
Medical marijuana headed to Mississippi ballots in November(Photo source: VideoBlocks)
Updated: Oct. 28, 2020 at 11:04 AM CDT
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JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - In another major blow to the measure, the Mississippi Municipal League has come out against the medical marijuana initiatives.

League President Billy Hewes calls the initiative a “Trojan horse, designed by Big Marijuana to play upon sympathies – under the guise of providing a medical alternative to pain management.”

He was referring to Initiative 65, a measure that allow people with any of 22 illnesses get a doctor’s prescription for medical marijuana.

Hewes, the mayor of Gulfport, also came out against Initiative 65A, a more restrictive alternative to the 65 proposal.

The initiative and its legislative alternative have sparked debate among residents and leaders across the state.

Supporters say say more than 85 percent of Americans and 80 percent of Mississippians support the legalization of medical marijuana. They also point out that more than 200,000 people across the state to put the initiative on the ballot.

And while MML has come out against the measure, some city leaders in the state back it. Ocean Springs Mayor Shea Dobson is one of those individuals, who has been vocal about her support of 65.

“This is one of those issues where you need to stand on principles and you need to stand on your convictions," WLOX reported in September. "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.”

Hewes, though, said that Initiative 65 would “open the door to a loosely regulated set of laws, leading the liberal dispensation of an illegal drug into our communities.”

He argues further that medical marijuana laws should be implemented through legislative policy, not constitutional amendments.

“No product enjoys constitutional protection,” he wrote. “In addition, this proposal does not provide for the collection of taxes for things such as roads, bridges and schools.”

The league’s board of directors voted on a resolution opposing the initiative on October 2.

League officials say that the drug, “when used under doctor supervision, may provide benefits for certain medical conditions, marijuana is still a Schedule I drug and would put the state and its citizens in conflict with federal law.”

The group said the initiative also would “severely limit municipalities from regulating the location of marijuana dispensaries through zoning and would prohibit municipalities from limiting the number of dispensaries, therefore negatively impacting property values.”

Zoning rules are typically used to control city growth and the location of business and residential areas.

According to a copy of the initiative found on the Mississippi secretary of state’s website, municipal zoning ordinances “shall be no more restrictive than those for a licensed retail pharmacy” or other businesses that fall within the same categories as marijuana treatment centers.

However, the initiative does state that no medical marijuana treatment center would be allowed within 500 feet of a pre-existing school, church or childcare center.

MML joins numerous other groups in opposition to the initiative. On Monday, the city of Madison filed a brief in the Mississippi Supreme Court asking the court from blocking the measure from being on the November ballot.

Prior to that, the Mississippi Association of Chiefs of Polices, a group of approximately 300 law enforcement leaders, came out against 65 and 65A.

Residents will head to the polls on Tuesday, November 3. The marijuana initiative will be one of several on the ballot.

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