Diversity and Community Engagement
The University of Mississippi

Statewide Ballot Initiatives: Medical Marijuana Initiative 65

In this series of posts, UM Voting Ambassadors are previewing what is on the Mississippi ballot, so that you understand the offices, the statewide ballot initiatives, and your choices as you prepare to cast your vote. In this post, Voting Ambassador Katelyn Winstead shares about the MS Ballot Initiative 65 and Alternative Measure 65A, regarding medical marijuana, one of three statewide initiatives on the ballot. For those voting out-of-state, please reference our State by State Voting Guide for information on your ballot.

Initiative 65 is a citizen-sponsored initiative designed to legalize marijuana for those with “debilitating illnesses” by amending the state constitution. Initiative 65A is an alternative initiative offered by the legislature, with many of the specifics to be worked out later. These options can be confusing for voters, so here is a breakdown of the alternative proposals.

So, what is the difference between Initiative 65 and 65A?

Initiative 65 – Less Restrictive

Both initiatives, if passed, will procure an amendment of the Mississippi State Constitution to legalize medical marijuana. The main difference between the two are the specifications laid out. Initiative 65 will allow patients to attain medical marijuana if they have one of the 22 stated qualifying conditions; patients would be able to have up to 2.5 oz at a time and the sales tax on medical marijuana will be in accordance with the state sales tax which is, as of 2020, 7%. Initiative 65 is projected to collect at least a few million dollars in revenue after assessing the first-year implementation costs. The initiative also states that the Mississippi Department of Health will oversee the medical marijuana program.

Initiative 65A – More Restrictive

Alternative 65A does not specify the qualifying conditions of patients, the limits of possession, tax percentage, nor the fiscal impact that it would have on the state. Alternative 65A does provide zoning laws, prohibiting any medical marijuana treatment center from being within 500 ft. of schools, churches, or child-care establishments. The alternative measure does not give any details as to who would oversee the program but affords that it will be administered under an appropriate state agency. Under 65A, smoking medical marijuana would be limited to only those patients who are terminally ill. If alternative measure 65A is passed, legislatures will have to put in a lot of work to narrow the specifications of the initiative and provide concrete regulations and procedures.

Provision Initiative 65 Alternative 65A
Number of qualifying conditions 22 specified; more may be established at a later date none specified
Possession limits 2.5 ounces at once none specified
Ability to smoke marijuana prohibited in public places restricted to terminally ill patients
Taxes on marijuana sales taxed at state sales tax rate (7% as of 2020) no tax rate specified
Cost for medical marijuana patient ID cards capped at $50 no cost specified
Administrating agency Mississippi Department of Health not specified
Deadline for medical marijuana cards to be issued August 15, 2021 no date specified

(Source: Ballotpedia, 10/22/2020)

What should I expect to see on the ballot?


(Source: Mississippi Today, 10/22/20)

On the ballot, you will see that you can first check either Initiative 65 or 65A or against both of the initiatives. If you are for Initiative 65, you will check the box that says either and then select the FOR Initiative 65 box. If you are for initiative 65A you will do the same thing, except you will select FOR Alternative Measure 65A after selecting either. If you are against the passage of both Initiative 65 and 65A, then you will simply select the AGAINST BOTH option.

For a comprehensive analysis of Initiative 65 and 65A, including arguments for each, fiscal analysis, and more check out:

For your reference:

Katelyn Winstead

Katelyn Winstead