Members of the Mississippi State Board of Health have sent out a letter urging people to vote against the medical marijuana constitutional amendment this coming November.
The letter is signed by 10 board members. It said the proposed amendment would allow the use of marijuana and its derivatives like cannabidiol “for broad and non-specific reasons.” It added that the amendment “would allow for more marijuana use that the limited examples often cited by the amendment’s proponents.”
The board members also dislike the provision in the amendment that specifically puts the state Board of Health in charge “of everything from setting and collecting taxes on marijuana to deciding where it can be grown and how the tax revenue is spent.”
The board’s reservations about the amendment are understandable, especially the reluctance for what essentially is a health-care agency to take on duties that would be better handled elsewhere, such as by the Department of Revenue.
Reservations about allowing patients to possess up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana for medical treatment also are understandable. It is a big step for this conservative state to consider the partial legalization of a drug that for decades has been described as the first substance used by many drug addicts, the one many parents warned their children to avoid.
The Board of Health says that more research needs to be done on the effects of marijuana. That’s true, but the board then makes the mistake of trotting out the warning that marijuana “negatively affects individuals’ processing speed, reasoning, executive function and memory.” Just like alcohol — which happens to be legal.
The most glaring flaw in the board’s letter is the contention that elected representatives should be able to change the law. If voters approve the amendment, it will be part of the Constitution, and changing it would require the time-consuming process of another amendment.
This is the Legislature’s fault. It chose not to address medical marijuana in any substantial way. Thus its advocates, including cancer patients seeking pain relief and parents of children with severe forms of epilepsy, stepped up.
Most likely, lawmakers have avoided this issue because they fear negative reaction from voters. You can’t fault them for that: Plenty of people would object to the legalization of marijuana for medical care, and would not consider the obvious difference between that and making the drug legal for recreational use.
The proposed amendment will add hundreds of words to the state Constitution. It reads much more like a bill, with plenty of specifics and details, than it does a typical brief section of any constitution.
If the medical marijuana amendment passes, the state Board of Health and other opponents should blame the Legislature’s inaction. Our wary representatives let the issue sit for years while most other states took action.