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As a doctor, I support Initiative 65, and ask you to, too

As a medical resident and a patient with multiple sclerosis, I support medical marijuana as a treatment option for Mississippians with debilitating medical conditions. I see patients daily who aren’t getting the relief from traditional pharmaceutical drugs or are dealing with unwanted side effects from drugs like opioids. I am voting for Initiative 65 on Nov. 3 for myself and other patients and I hope you will, too.

Mississippi voters get to decide whether Mississippi will join 34 other states in creating a regulated medical marijuana program. More than 3.5 million patients are finding relief through medical marijuana programs and we deserve the same opportunity. Initiative 65 is the only choice for physicians and their patients with debilitating medical conditions, including cancer, multiple sclerosis, seizures, PTSD, ALS, chronic pain and others to have this treatment option. 

As a multiple sclerosis patient, I experience muscle spasms and pain, particularly in my feet. I’ve tried many pharmaceutical drugs, but they don’t help my pain and carry unwanted side effects.  Patients like me in other states get to use medical marijuana at the recommendation of their physician. This is about coping with the symptoms of a condition that I will suffer from for the rest of my life, and I want another treatment option available to make my life better.

The Mississippi Legislature never passed a medical marijuana law, despite many bills being introduced for more than a decade. Initiative 65 was put on the ballot by more than 228,000 Mississippians who want our state to have a medical marijuana program, but politicians put Alternative 65A on the ballot after 65 qualified as a kill measure to confuse voters and block medical marijuana. 

Opponents of medical marijuana are spreading a lot of misinformation and it’s important for voters to understand the differences between 65 and the politician’s Alternative 65A. Below are just a few facts about 65 and 65A:

• 65 creates a functioning program with constitutional protections for patients that will start right away — as soon as voters approve it. 65A puts medical marijuana in the constitution but lacks all components necessary to create a functioning program.

• 65 is modeled after the best practices of other conservative states’ programs. 65A was placed on the ballot by politicians to confuse the issue and block medical marijuana.

• 65 names 22 qualifying medical conditions and gives physicians authority to certify patients. 65A does not name any medical conditions and puts that power in the hands of politicians.

• 65 allows caregivers to help disabled and homebound patients, and minors with qualifying medical conditions. 65A does not allow caregivers, so these patients would be excluded.

• 65 does not tax medical marijuana since Mississippi does not tax other prescription medications. 65A allows politicians to tax sick patients’ medicine.

• 65 requires all revenue generated by the program to support the costs of the program, so it is self-funded and does not require tax dollars. 65A would require tax dollars.

Patients like me can benefit from medical marijuana and I’ll be voting YES on 65 (not 65A!) on Nov. 3. Initiative 65 is the choice of patients and doctors! 

Talyr Hall, MD, is a Brookhaven native.