Pubdate: Wed, 07 Jan 2015
Source: Commercial Appeal (Memphis, TN)
Copyright: 2015 The Commercial Appeal
Author: Ron Maxey


Petition Effort Seeks to Get Issue on 2016 Ballot

An effort to legalize marijuana in Mississippi is growing out of 
DeSoto County, where petition organizer Kelly Jacobs of Hernando is 
planning a series of town hall meetings this month to explain the proposal.

Jacobs'group, Mississippi for Cannabis, filed a petition in September 
at the Secretary of State's satellite office in Hernando to get the 
issue on the 2016 general election ballot. The office on Dec. 29 
approved the measure for placement on the ballot if, by October, 
supporters gather 107,216 certified signatures, or a minimum of 
21,443 from each of the state's five congressional districts that 
existed before redistricting reduced the number of districts to the 
current four.

If they fail to get enough signatures, supporters could still try to 
get it on the ballot in 2017 by collecting the required number of 
signatures by December 2015.

Jacobs, a well-known Democratic activist in DeSoto County, said 
meetings explaining the effort will kick off Friday in Jackson, 
followed by the first DeSoto County meeting scheduledfor 1-2p.m. 
Saturday at the GaleCenter, 2601 Elm in Hernando. Other DeSoto County 
meetings are planned by the end of January in Horn Lake, Olive Branch 
and Southaven, as well as in Senatobia in neighboring Tate County. 
Other meetings are planned throughout Mississippi.

Twenty-three states and Washington now allow medical marijuana, and 
Colorado and Washington state also now allow recreational sales. No 
Mid-South states have legalized marijuana.

The Mississippi proposal, officially titled Ballot Measure No. 48, 
would legalize cannabis for adults, regulating it the same as alcohol 
and imposing a 7 percent sales tax.

The proposal also would legalize growing industrial hemp, allowing 
farmers to grow it under the purview of state Department of 
Agriculture testing for THC levels. Industrial hemp would not be 
subject to sales tax.

Anyone convicted of nonviolent cannabis violations would receive a 
pardon, if requested, from the governor.

Jacobs said she initiated the drive to legalize marijuana as a way to 
stimulate involvement by young voters, many of whom identified 
legalization as a key issue as she tried to register them to vote. As 
she researched the issue more, Jacobs said, she came to understand 
the benefits it could offer.

"It was really hard for me as someone who has never smoked it," 
Jacobs said, "but as I started researching it, I found that my 
husband with Lupus could benefit from it. Farmers would benefit by 
being able to grow the industrial hemp, without the THC that causes the high.

"It's something people should at least be able to discuss and 
consider, and a ballot initiative is really the only way people can 
assemble and discuss changes without going through the Legislature."

Jacobs said she and friend Susan Watkins worked through 47 drafts 
over a three-month period to come up with the initiative approved by 
the Secretary of State.

Efforts to gain voter approval in a conservative state such as 
Mississippi likely face an uphill battle, however.

Marshall Fisher, the former Mississippi Bureau of Narcotics director 
and now the commissioner of the state Department of Corrections, is 
on record opposing the initiative. He said it could lead to drug addiction.

Closer to home, Horn Lake Mayor Allen Latimer turned down Jacobs' 
request to hold the town hall meeting there later this month at City Hall.

Latimer said Tuesday he would consult aldermen and the city attorney 
on the matter, but he personally opposes legalizing marijuana and 
didn't want City Hall to be used for a meeting on the matter because 
he feared it would appear the city was endorsing the proposal.

"I think it's a first-step drug, and I just don't think it's 
appropriate to use City Hall," Latimer said.

Jacobs said she was trying to line up the public library or a 
veterans hall for the Horn Lake session. She said she has already 
been approved for use of the courthouse in Olive Branch for a meeting 
there, and probably will use the library in Southaven.
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