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It’s probably a long shot, but marijuana advocates in Mississippi are giving it a go anyway. A group called Mississippi for Cannabis has filed a petition seeking to legalize the drug.

Marijuana JointThe proposal has been in the works for a while, so it wasn’t much of a surprise. And the odds of success in the Deep South are low. But it’s a start and a sign that activists are willing to pursue reform anywhere in the United States.

Mississippi for Cannabis filed the petition Sept. 29 with a local office of the Mississippi secretary of state. Kelly Jacobs, a longtime official with the Democratic Party, organized the effort.

“Now we are waiting for official approval from the Mississippi secretary of state and the attorney general, which will include a ballot initiative number and the official format for the collection of signatures,” Jacobs said. “The Mississippi Legislature also has the option to adopt our ballot initiative, but that is unlikely.”

Jacobs’ petition seeks to legalize possession, sale, and cultivation of cannabis. Residents would be able to grow up to nine plants and possess any amount of processed marijuana. Those terms are much more generous than in other states that have successfully legalized.

Organizers will need to collect about 110,000 signatures to get the question on the ballot Nov. 4. First it needs the initial approval of the secretary of state, a hardcore right-wing Republican. It’s not clear whether he’ll stand in the way, but officials in some other deep-red states have done so.

Even if the issue gets on the ballot, it’s highly unlikely it will pass in one of the most conservative parts of the country – but not impossible.

Ironically, given the strength of anti-drug forces in Mississippi, weed is already somewhat decriminalized in the state. The only penalty for a first offense is a fine, $250 at the most.

But a second conviction carries a possible jail sentence of as many as 60 days, and a third could lead to a six-month sentence.

Sale of any amount is treated harshly. Selling just 10 pounds could cost you $1 million and land you in jail for up to 30 years. Possession of paraphernalia, meanwhile, is a misdemeanor with a maximum penalty of six months in jail.

So while weed is technically decriminalized in Mississippi, penalties can still be severe. That doesn’t bode well for Jacobs’ petition.

Opposition is already fierce. And proponents of the drug wars are pulling out their usual false, ridiculous claims about the drug. Marshall Fisher, former director of the Mississippi Department of Narcotics, said society would end up spending $10 on drug rehab for every $1 of pot sold.

Marijuana PlantThat claim is patently absurd, and is not backed by any scientific or economic evidence of any kind, anywhere. Marijuana has a very low addiction rate, contrary to what people like Fisher claim, and leads to rehab far less often than alcohol, heroin, or other recreational drugs.

Still, Fisher’s attitude is likely to pervade discussions about reform in Mississippi. There are few liberal voters in the state, and very little support for legalization. Jacobs said that’s part of the reason she’s pushing her initiative.

“We want to legalize marijuana and decriminalize it,” she said. “It’s an adult discussion we should be having.”

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About the Author: Matt Brooks

Matt is a journalist from San Francisco who has specialized in marijuana policy for more than six years.

5 Comments

  1. Kelly Jacobs February 9, 2015 at 4:24 am - Reply

    Mississippi has proposed the most liberal ballot initiative about legalizing marijuana in the nation, because we know that the government is wrong in persecuting people for using a plant. #bi48 would legalize and tax marijuana like alcohol and require our governor to pardon non violent cannabis offenders.
    While gov officials park police cars in front of collection sites to prevent people from signing the petitions, Team Legalize volunteers work to find registered voters to get this initiative onto the 2016 ballot. Download the petition or ask for one to be mailed to you.
    I am the author and sponsor of this initiative.
    Sincerely,
    Mrs. Kelly Jacobs
    662-429-4412

    A different group, The Mississippi Alliance for Cannabis has Petition 48 on their website where it can be downloaded.
    http://www.yesonproposition48.org

    • Editor February 10, 2015 at 12:21 pm - Reply

      We wish you the best of luck with your initiative, if we can help please let us know!

  2. Jennifer Curl February 9, 2015 at 9:46 am - Reply

    Thank you for this article. Mississippi needs to become a part of this booming billion dollar industry more than any other state in the country. Perpetually one of the lowest in education, bi48 would take the full 7% tax on recreational sales and put it towards the public school system until 2020. It would also decriminalize marijuana, requiring the state to pardon non-violent marijuana related crimes. Industrial hemp would also be legalized which could be as high as $350 an acre. Cannabis requires less water & pesticides and upon harvesting it, leaves the ground better for the following crop. It can be used as plastics, food, oil, fuel, housing, medicine, and much more. The grassroots movement to legalize in Mississippi probably IS a long shot. But if it does become law, it would change every Mississippians life for the better and catapult the state as one of the fastest growing and improving in the nation.

  3. Christopher Kelso February 11, 2015 at 1:07 am - Reply

    I believe this would be the best thing that has ever happened to Mississippi if it passes. I look at it this way my life way forever changed by alcohol! Sober my father was a great man but put some beer in him and he became physically and verbally abuse that peaked the day he killed my mom, grandmother, and himself. Alcohol is legal, we’ve all seen the changes in people that alcohol does, not to mention the side affects of long term use. A bad enough alcoholic can die from detoxing, also liver damage and the list goes on and on. The pain and anguish family’s go through, victims of alcoholic violence and their families. Alcohol IS LEGAL!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    Marijuana is natural although can be altered for more Thc, is still safer than most pharmaceuticals next time you watch a pharmaceutical commercial look at all the side effects! For example ANTIDEPRESSANTS: suicide. Isn’t that one of the things you’re trying to prevent from happening in the first place. I’ve seen and known people who’ve killed, committed suicide and have accidentally overdosed on things that are perfectly legal under the governments eyes….
    I have never heard of any violent acts committed by anyone under the influence of marijuana nor does the side effects outweigh the use. Ofcourse there have been violence in the illegal economics at points and times mainly for the fact it is illegal. Paranoia from the law is by people down the whole line from seed to smoke, but as far as violence by someone using marijuana and only marijuana I’ve never seen it.
    If we’re really the bible belt lets prove it. Marijuana came from God not man. We’ve tried and know the pro’s and con’s of man made spirits and big company pharmaceuticals. Let’s try gods gift for a while and see if things get better all the way around. I bet you it would, financially from the consumer to the government would rise. Jobs would be created “legal” jobs that is. Isn’t that what the government is about anyway…. money.
    I believe if my father would’ve smoked weed instead of drank beer my family would still be here.

  4. Jennifer swan February 11, 2015 at 6:15 pm - Reply

    Thanks for writing this article. It’s time Mississippi wakes and realizes this is a very powerful healing herb, that should have never been made illegal.
    Freedom can not exist while nature is illegal.

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