Legalizing marijuana in Colorado has state officials raking in the green, and we aren’t talking about weed. Lawmakers have collected record revenue —over $50 million—from recreational marijuana taxes; so much, in fact, they may be obligated to give a portion back to the taxpayers. Now Mississippians have a chance to try to bring the budding business to their own backyard.
“If an adult wants to use cannabis, I don’t think it’s the government’s business,” revealed Kelly Jacobs, author of Mississippi Ballot Initiative 48 and Hernando, Miss. resident.
BI48, dubbed “one of the boldest cannabis initiatives in history” by southerncannabis.org, aims to amend the constitution in two ways by legalizing the use, cultivation and sale of cannabis and industrial hemp while also requiring the governor to pardon all non-violent cannabis offenders. Cannabis would only be available to those 21 or older, just like the sale of alcohol. The 7 percent sales tax collected from recreational marijuana purchases would be used solely to fund Mississippi public schools.
A person would be able to grow up to nine plants for personal use, but once the plant count reaches 10, the grower is considered a marijuana farmer and must pay a $25 fee to the local circuit clerk. If an individual grows particularly dank herb and chooses to sell it, a sales license would also be available from the clerk for $1,000.
Jacobs, 56, said she feels cannabis should have been regulated all along to avoid such a vast market serving minors, and that’s why she and Team Legalize volunteers are blazing a trail to educate Mississippians about the benefits and possibilities marijuana could hold for the Magnolia State.
However, with deadlines fast approaching, Team Legalize is running out of time to collect almost 100,000 more signatures by Dec. 29 to put BI48 on the 2017 ballot. If they fail, the ’Sip may not see another chance like this.
Medical marijuana is an idea many will tolerate, even support, but when it comes to recreational use or pardoning cannabis offenders, the bud stops there.
The obstacles Jacobs and Team Legalize are facing don’t end with collecting signatures and educating voters about BI48. Team Legalize is also facing harassment from police officers and underhanded attempts from a few circuit clerks to hinder the initiative’s progress.
“When officials are violating the law or not doing their job, that’s a problem,” Jacobs complained. “We are supposed to have freedom of speech and freedom to assemble, but I haven’t seen much of that.”
Solicitation and disturbing the peace are only a few of the charges police have threatened volunteers with for holding signs or being at a public event registering voters and collecting signatures for the initiative. One of the challenges facing the movement is potential petitioners who believe in the movement but are hesitant to attach a signature to the cause. And many don’t make the cut. Of the almost 20,000 signatures Team Legalize has collected, over 7,500 have been rejected. Jacobs believes this is because voters have been purged from the voting rolls without their knowledge. At the St. Patrick’s Day parade in Hinds County, Jacobs spent hours collecting 200 signatures in the pouring rain to only have 20 certified by the local circuit clerk.
As if that’s not frustrating enough, some clerks are just flat-out refusing to sign and seal the petitions. One clerk refused to certify a petition citing she saw “blood” on the petition. Jacobs, following the Secretary of State’s directive, placed tape over the spot—that looked remarkably like coffee—and returned the petition to the clerk months ago, which has yet to be certified.
The federal government has made it illegal for any university in the country to research medical marijuana – except Ole Miss, where the federal government has been growing and analyzing weed since 1968.
Cannabis has been proven to help alleviate and treat symptoms of arthritis, multiple sclerosis, epilepsy, HIV/AIDS, hepatitis C, PTSD, anxiety, depression and panic disorders, cancer and countless other illnesses and ailments, according to Safe Access Now, a
“Mississippians should not have to move to another state to be able to treat their ailments with cannabis,” Jacobs pressed.
Although not a smoker herself, Jacob’s says she never knew the countless benefits of marijuana, the abundant uses for industrial hemp, or the ridiculous amount of taxpayer’s money being wasted to keep non-violent cannabis offenders behind bars. Now she’s at the forefront of the statewide movement to prevent just that. Throughout this effort and any other political adventures, her supportive husband has had just one request: ‘please don’t get arrested.’
According to Scientific Reports journal, marijuana is 117 times less deadly than alcohol. Tobacco and alcohol, both legal under the federal government, are attributed to more than 400,000 deaths per year, yet pot is still considered socially to many as the real danger. Now it’s time for Mississippians to take a closer look at the economic impact of such a stance.