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Initiative could legalize cannabis and...

Initiative could legalize cannabis and hemp for all Mississippians

By: Sarah Ulmer - May 7, 2021

A ballot initiative has been filed by a doctor who previously faced drug charges related to the use and cultivation of marijuana. 

Ballot initiative 77, submitted by Dr. David Allen of Moss Point, would legalize the growing and use of cannabis and hemp across the state of Mississippi. It also calls for the decriminalization of cannabis associated crimes unless there is a victim involved or a property loss. The new initiative would only allow citations with a maximum of a $500 fine.

Allen is a former surgeon who has had a long history of run-ins with the law dating back to 2009, having faced previous indictments for drug charges related to cultivation and possession of marijuana as well as charges of witness tampering and bribery. A Jackson County judge would go on to dismiss the lower charges while jurors could not agree on a verdict resulting in a mistrial.

According to Gulflive, Mississippi state prosecutors dropped all charges against Allen in 2012. He had spent 14 months in jail after being accused in 2009 of growing marijuana on his 50-acre Jackson County property.

Allen’s ballot Initiative 77 would allow adults to grow up to 99 plants within their own home, and use and posses an unlimited quantity of marijuana.

Unlike Initiative 65, and medical marijuana use, no identification cards would be required for use and possession of any forms of cannabis.

The initiative also outlines how some laws will no longer be effective and held against marijuana users, including the denial of child custody.

The Secretary of State’s office received the ballot summary, which is put together by the Attorney General’s office, on April 7. It is mandated that they distribute the required legal notice with title and summary within 10 days in newspapers of general circulation in Mississippi.

Pursuant to Miss. Code Ann. § 23-17-11, “The Secretary of State shall publish the title and summary for an initiative measure within ten (10) days after filing such title and summary in a newspaper or newspapers of general circulation throughout the State of Mississippi.”

Secretary of State Michael Watson

Secretary Watson’s office distributed the material by using the Mississippi Press Association (MPA). However, they later learned that the MPA did not properly transmit the ballot title and ballot summary to five of the newspapers on the required list.

“We deeply regret an error originating in our office that resulted in the omission of the Initiative 77 notice in five newspapers across the state,” said Layne Bruce, Executive Director of Mississippi Press Services, Inc. “We pride ourselves on the work we do on behalf of the Secretary of State’s Office and other clients, and we take very seriously the rare occasion when we don’t deliver the quality job that is expected. We will work diligently to avoid this kind of oversight in the future.”

The SOS office has since instructed the MPA to publish the correct ballot title and summary to those remaining five newspapers, which are: (1) Bay St. Louis Sea Coast Echo; (2) Biloxi Sun Herald; (3) Brandon Rankin County News; (4) Charleston Sun Sentinel; and (5) Clarksdale Press Register.

Those papers will publish the correct information on or before May 13, 2021.

This initiative, like many others submitted this year, will require the appropriate amount of signatures before it can appear on the 2022 general election ballot. The current case before the Mississippi Supreme Court related to the process by which Initiative 65, the medical marijuana constitutional amendment, made its way on to the ballot before being adopted by voters in 2020 has yet to be decided.

About the Author(s)
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Sarah Ulmer

Sarah is a Mississippi native, born and raised in Madison. She is a graduate of Mississippi State University, where she studied Communications, with an emphasis in Broadcasting and Journalism. Sarah’s experience spans multiple mediums, including extensive videography with both at home and overseas, broadcasting daily news, and hosting a live radio show. In 2017, Sarah became a member of the Capitol Press Corp in Mississippi and has faithfully covered the decisions being made by leaders on some of the most important issues facing our state. Email Sarah: