Mayor Robyn Tannehill.jpg

The Nov. 3 election will determine so much for the future of our State and Country. We will choose a president and vice president, United States senators and congressmen, a new state flag, and there is another matter that has not gotten as much publicity as the others… Mississippians will get to determine the future of medical marijuana in our State, and whether or not to remove a provision from the state Constitution that makes Mississippi the only state in the nation where a candidate for statewide office can win a majority of the popular vote and not be elected.

Voters will be asked whether they are for either the citizen-sponsored Initiative 65 or the legislative alternative 65A, or if they are against both. Medical marijuana may sound appealing, but Initiative 65 holds serious consequences that could do real harm to our kids and our communities.

All of us approach these different issues and candidate decisions by weighing our alternatives and by running them through our grid of beliefs, life experience and priorities. While there is much diversity of thought on the benefits of medical marijuana, I believe that enshrining the legalization of medical marijuana in our State’s Constitution is simply the wrong approach.

Initiative 65 is an effort by the $14 billion marijuana industry to legalize marijuana in Mississippi by writing their own regulations and enshrining them in our State Constitution, giving the marijuana industry constitutional protections that no other product has. If we vote to pass Initiative 65 on Nov. 3, we will open “Pandora’s Box.” Medical marijuana is a legitimate issue that our legislature has turned its back on too many times over the years. Should 65 pass, then the marijuana industry will score a big win, and it would have constitutional protections that are unprecedented, and any changes will be out of reach of any current or future Legislator or Governor.

Initiative 65 would constitutionally prohibit the taxation of marijuana. There is a fee that the Mississippi Board of Health can impose, but all of the revenue from that fee would be constitutionally mandated to go to a special fund – outside of the control of the Legislature – that could only be utilized to run the marijuana program. No money would go to cities, schools, roads, healthcare or law enforcement, even though there will inevitably be additional costs that come with legalizing marijuana, particularly for our law enforcement. This is clearly a sweetheart deal for the marijuana industry, and unprecedented in history.

One of the most concerning issues with Initiative 65 for me as a mayor is that if Initiative 65 passes, then no mayor, board of aldermen or city council could restrict where marijuana dispensaries could locate. This lack of zoning regulation is very concerning. City leaders would lack the ability to prevent dispensaries in single family neighborhoods or next door to schools.

Concerns over the lack of zoning permitted, no limit on the number of dispensaries, and the lack of sales tax revenue to the State of Mississippi and municipalities lead me to encourage people to vote against giving special protections to marijuana in the State Constitution and to vote against Initiative 65.

I will be voting for 65A. Initiative 65A says that any medical marijuana program passed by the State Legislature must be truly medical, and that it will keep Mississippi’s doctors and communities in charge. Catherine Rhea Fulghom is my niece who suffers from ataxia and a seizure disorder. She is eleven years old and lives in Florida. She began using medical marijuana four years ago, and has greatly benefited from it. Many Mississippians could benefit the same way Catherine Rhea has, and our state would be able to tax and regulate it.

I would encourage you to visit the Secretary of State’s website at www.sos.ms.gov to see a sample ballot for your county. Every election is determined by the people who show up. Use this opportunity to make a difference.

ROBYN TANNEHILL is the mayor of Oxford. Readers can contact her at robyn@oxfordms.net.

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