Stop the Opt, Lincoln County — ‘We’re not looking for a fight, but we’re not backing down’
Published 2:22 pm Friday, April 8, 2022
Group aims to reverse county’s decision to opt-out of medical marijuana
“None of us drink, smoke, or do drugs. This is not about that,” said Lincoln County resident Jason McDonald. “This is about four people who took away the vote of 9,000 people with blatant disregard.”
McDonald, along with Timothy Gipson and Sagan King, are busy collecting signatures on three petitions that will bring about a special election in the county, if at least 1,500 signatures are collected and certified. The first petition is to place a Medical Marijuana Referendum on a special ballot. If the issue goes to a vote and passes, it will override the 4-1 vote of the Lincoln County Supervisors to opt out of allowing cultivation, processing and sale of medical marijuana in the county.
District 4 Supervisor Eddie Brown was the one dissenting vote against opting out. Supervisors who voted to not allow medical marijuana were Jerry McGehee (District 1), Jerry Wilson (District 2), Nolan Williamson (District 3) and board president Doug Falvey (District 5).
The other two petitions are for a Beer and Wine Referendum, and an Alcoholic Liquors Referendum. Those would allow for the sale of beer, wine and liquor in licensed facilities in the county, outside of the City of Brookhaven.
McDonald recently registered a political action committee (PAC) called The Committee to Oppose Opting Out in Lincoln County, or more simply — Stop the Opt, Lincoln County.
“We just want a fair election,” he said. “However this goes, we want as many people out as possible so the people’s voice can be heard.”
Twenty-five of 30 precincts in Lincoln County voted in support of a medical marijuana initiative in 2020’s general election. Approximately 17,000 people were registered to vote in Lincoln County at the time. More than 9,100 people (9,184, or 54.22 percent) voted in support of “either Initiative Measure No. 65 OR Alternative Measure No. 65A,” and 6,045 people (35.69 percent) voted against both. Ten percent of registered voters did not cast a vote.
Statewide, 74 percent of voters supported the initiative that became the Mississippi Medical Cannabis Act. As of Friday, nine cities have opted out — Pass Christian, Ridgeland, Brandon, Gluckstadt, Flora, Pontotoc, Madison, Clinton and Horn Lake. No information was available on which counties other than Lincoln — if any — have chosen to do the same.
With 60 percent of those who voted supporting the production and availability of medical cannabis, the trio of signature gatherers believes the County Board has not acted in agreement with its constituents. Therefore their voices should be heard — first through signing the petitions in order to bring about a special election, and then voting in support of the issues at the election.
All voters registered within the county are asked to sign the petition, and anyone who is not registered — or not registered correctly due to an address or name change — is encouraged to register. Citizens can register to vote in person at the office of Circuit Clerk Dustin Bairfield on online at VOTE.org. A person must have been registered for at least 30 days prior to voting, or signing a petition.
More than 300 signatures had already been collected in just a few days, and had most had been submitted to Bairfield’s office for certification.
King has a personal interest in seeing medical marijuana made available to people in need.
“My father died from cancer three years ago. It may not have saved his life, but it could have helped for a pain relief option,” King said. “And a lot of people see that benefit.”
“People should have the right to medicine,” McDonald said. “Some of the most deadly substances in the world are housed in pharmacies in the city and county, and we have figured out how to control that. So there should be no fear about this.”
The trio also has a business interest in the election.
“We started last year producing hemp,” said McDonald, “with the idea that we might switch over and do medical (marijuana) if it passed. Then it passed (and) now the county supervisors have opted out and we’re not too happy that they think they knew better than their voters.”
Anyone interested in signing one or more of the petitions can contact Gipson at 601-320-1294 or visit Facebook.com/stoptheopt for more information.
“We’re not looking for a fight, but we’re not backing down,” McDonald said.
Editor’s note: As of April 13, more than 500 signatures had been collected.