One of the Boldest Cannabis Initiatives in History is Taking Place Right Now in Mississippi

Mississippi marijuana legalization initiative

Two Mississippi cannabis reform organizations have joined forces to end marijuana prohibition in their state, and if successful will pull off one of the most comprehensive pieces of citizen-generated legislation dealing with cannabis that we have seen yet. Proposition 48 is a ballot initiative that would not only legalize both medical and recreational marijuana in Mississippi but industrial hemp production as well. Additionally, Prop 48 calls on the Mississippi Governor to pardon all persons convicted of non-violent marijuana crimes.

Initiative Measure No. 48 would legalize the use, cultivation, sale of cannabis and industrial hemp. Cannabis related crimes would be punished in a manner similar to, or to a lesser degree, than alcohol related crimes. Cannabis sales would be taxed 7%. Cannabis sold for medical purposes and industrial hemp would be exempt from taxation. The Governor would be required to pardon persons convicted of non violent cannabis crimes against the State of Mississippi.

What’s in it?

According to a press release from organizers, the goals of Proposition 48 are:

  1. To legalize cannabis for adults so that it is regulated just like alcohol.
  2. To legalize Industrial Hemp so that farmers can grow it under the purview of the MS Dept of Agriculture which shall test their crops for THC levels (they do not pay the 7% sales tax).
  3. To allow adults to raise cannabis, no more than 9 plants for their personal, private use, and they can gift and barter their cannabis just like alcohol. Adults can raise more than 9 plants, but they are then defined as cannabis farmers, and have to pay an annual fee to their locality.
  4. To allow localities (city and county governments) to collect an annual fee of $25.00 or more, if a cannabis or industrial hemp farm is established in their territory, which is defined as an adult growing more than 10 cannabis plants, the more cannabis plants the higher the fee, not to exceed $1000.00. The locality keeps the fee, which can be adjusted every 5 years beginning in 2020.
  5. Cannabis will be taxed 7% with the exception of Industrial Hemp and medicinal cannabis, which are not taxed. The cannabis tax collected benefits Mississippi Public Schools and Universities until 2020 when it reverts to the general fund and the tax amount can be revisited bu t only if it is to be lowered.
  6. If adults want to sell cannabis, they can get an annual sales license from any County Circuit Clerk for $1000.00 and they are to charge a 7% sales tax, with the exception of Industrial Hemp farmers who do not need this license, nor to charge the tax. Businesses can sell the many types of cannabis products only to adults, that are available as long as they have a license: Florists, bakeries, co-ops, nurseries, pharmacies and dispensaries (no tax for medicinal cannabis), etc. The MS Dept of Health is to be directed by the MS Legislature to set up dispensaries and issue medical cannabis cards, similar to Arizona.
  7. Regulations/punishments about cannabis abuse are to be reduced by our legislature by so that they are no greater or even lesser than those for alcohol abuse.
  8. EMPTY OUR PRISONS and end parole and DRUG COURT for cannabis offenders. The governor shall implement this Constitutional amendment by pardoning current and former persons convicted of non -violent cannabis violations against the State of Mississippi who properly petition for the pardon . Compliance with our MS Constitution means they must first announce their request for pardon in a specific newspaper before they petition the governor for their pardon.
  9. Expungements: Currently, a person seeking expungment for a Mississippi cannabis conviction of simple possession, must petition the court where the conviction occurred, with notice to the prosecution, and the Judge will ultimately decide whether it will be granted or not. We asked that the MS Legislature amended our law to include the ability to expunge for manufacturing or sale of cannabis.

 A decentralized project

Part of what makes the initiative in Mississippi such a bold undertaking is the number of petition signatures organizers must gather in each of five legislative districts throughout the state. Each district requires 21,443 signatures for Prop 48 to make it to the ballot, and if any one of those districts fails to produce enough signatures then the measure automatically fails. The total number of voter signatures needed statewide is approximately 107,000.

To accomplish this organizers from two different legalization organizations, the Mississippi Alliance for Cannabis and Team Legalize, have teamed up to empower volunteers to collect the signatures needed, equipping them with petitions and voter registration forms and instructions for turning signatures in to their county court clerk. According to the initiative’s author, Kelly Jacobs, it is important for volunteers to act quickly in order to get the measure on the 2016 ballot.

“In order for BI 48 to appear on the 2016 presidential ballot, Mississippians must hurry and get their petitions certified by their Circuit Clerks no later than July 2015 so that they can all be submitted to the SOS no later than the October 2, 2015 deadline. If we do not have enough certified signatures by the October 2nd submission deadline, we can continue to collect signatures until our one year deadline 12/29/15 but then BI 48 would be presented on the 2017 ballot.”

SIDE NOTE: Did you know the federal government grows their marijuana in Mississippi?

Dr. Mahmoud ElSohly has run the federal government's Marijuana Research Project at the University of Mississippi since 1980.
Dr. Mahmoud ElSohly has run the federal government’s Marijuana Research Project at the University of Mississippi since 1980.

Many people new to the idea of cannabis law reform are often surprised to learn that the federal government has been growing their own supply of marijuana in Mississippi for over 45 years.

Since 1968, the National Institute on Drug Abuse has contracted with the University of Mississippi to grow, harvest and process marijuana and to ship it to licensed facilities across the country for research purposes. The lab also collects samples of marijuana seized by police to determine its potency and to document national drug trends.

The federal marijuana farm serves as the only source of material for government-approved cannabis researchers across the country, and also provides a steady supply of marijuana for the few remaining members of a government-run program that began in 1978 known as the Investigational New Drug, or IND Program.

Here is a video with interviews from two patients who have been receiving marijuana through the IND Program for nearly 40 years. These patients receive 300 pre-rolled joints per month filled with cannabis that was grown in Mississippi.

How you can help

Collecting this many signatures from so many different parts of the state requires a lot of hands-on work and petition organizers need all the volunteers they can get. If you are interested in helping end cannabis prohibition in Mississippi here’s what you can do:

  1. If you haven’t yet, register to vote. You can download a Mississippi voter registration form here.
  2. Email Kelly Jacobs with your name, telephone number and county so that she can connect you with the appropriate person at Team Legalize.
  3. Like the Mississippi Alliance for Cannabis on Facebook to stay up-to-date with the latest news.

For more information about the initiative (or to find a petition you can sign) you can contact the Mississippi Alliance for Cannabis through their Facebook page, or by telephone at (601) 832-9144.


  1. Awesome Article! Thank You ,Stephen for a writing such a great article for us in MS. bi48 is the boldest legalization effort in the country,we feel it should be so that MS can lead the way for other states to follow.Our Initiative will Free the Weed in such a way that our Citizens have the choice to choose and use as they see fit.Go Team Legalize!

    1. Chuck

      If I had a crystal ball I think I would see Mississippi moving into the 21st century.

  2. Wonderful article! Thanks for bringing to light all the hard work that team legalize and Mississippi Alliance for Cannabis has done! We believe this can be done., our state’s schools would greatly benefit from the tax revenue and we would say more money by pardoning non violent cannabis offenders. As a person with multiple sclerosis I would love the chance to have cannabis as a treatment option!

  3. Thank you for this most excellent article about our efforts to get Proposition 48 on the ballot. We believe the voters have the right and responsibility to decide this issue for our state. If you have any questions, feel free to contact me anytime.

    Paula Johnston
    Executive Director
    Mississippi Alliance for Cannabis

  4. buddhistMonkey

    My fear with this proposition is that the part about requiring the governor to exercise his pardon power might be an overreach. If I were the governor and I wanted to overturn this proposition, arguing the unconstitutionality of that stipulation would be the keystone of my lawsuit. Pardoning nonviolent drug offenders is a great idea, though, and I hope that this ballot initiative ultimately succeeds.

    1. This is a great point, and I was thinking about this yesterday as well. What I did notice in this petition is that organizers have gone to great pains to make it conform to Mississippi’s wack-o alcohol laws, so I suspect there is some precedence as well. I will try to get some clarification.

  5. Dennis

    A round of applause to the people of Mississippi for taking the bull by the horns on this issue.
    God save USAll …

  6. Edwin Gorgas

    Hi!! I have Neropatic pain!! And the medications that the Dr. gave me like Lyrica antes it gave me liver problems!! I am not teacking no medication!!! The pain is to much!!! Can this help me???

  7. Sean

    CBD (the non “high” ingredient in Cannabis) can help you Edwin and will be a much larger market than THC ( the “high” ingredient in Cannabis) …it can help you..go online and order some…it will change your life..and you dont risk getting high if you do not want to…

  8. This is just a bunch of political nonsense. For one……Why should marijuana be regulated by the same people that regulate alcohol ? There are about 37,000 deaths every year directly attributed to alcohol in the United States, however this does not include motor accidents or violence in whicha alcohol was a factor, so it could easily be quadruple that amount. The number of marijuana-related deaths is zero. That’s right, zero. Not a single person has ever died from using weed. So shouldn’t they first show responsibility for all the alcohol damage ?

    1. tom

      Just the sales would be regulated, like any other product sold to consumers. You’d be free to grow your own stash 🙂

  9. Chuck, I don’t think canmabis and alcohol should be controlled by the same institution but as long as they legalize it and I have a legal choice to use cannabis without the fear of losing my children, family and freedom because of lies that created outdated law’s.
    As cannabis is a medicine and until 1937 prescribed by doctors and filled by pharmacies; also from 1854-1941 in the the book on pharmaceutical medicines The United States Pharmacopeia if my spelling is correct, I know that my information is.

  10. LaWanda

    Cannabis should be legalized, in my opinion! More so than alcohol. There’s way more deaths due to alcohol related incidents from what I’ve seen. I am not a cannabis user (many years ago, I did) but may dabble if it becomes legal. And yes, I will inhale. 🙂 Btw, I’m not against drinking… I have one drink every other month or so. I just believe “weed” became illegal for all the wrong reasons to begin with. That’s my two cents….

  11. david singletary

    it is past time. i have been a user of cannibis for 43 years and it’s time to come out of the closet. I’m tired of trying to be arrested for using pot for my recreational and medical uses. It’s time to rise up and let our voice be heard.

  12. Greta Dees

    Great article about Mississippi ‘s Ballot Initiative 48! A very sincere thank you to the writer.

  13. kip caven

    THANK YOU for helping to open closed eyes……..and those that might have ONE eye open!! Great article that has been sent to everyone I know here!

  14. Max

    With methamphetamine use on an ever accelerating rise. property crimes and violence linked to it. I think our prison system could benefit from this law. Not to mention
    It would hurt the Mexican drug cartels by allowing us to grow our own better quality herb. Taking even more power back from gangs. Win win

  15. Excellent new. Intelligent, compassionate, comprehensive and ironic… the US research farm is there and Marc Emery did time there for selling seeds.

  16. Last time I checked I never heard of a liver failing due to weed or weed poisoning being heard…or cirrhosis or hangovers…if it doesn’t do these things but alcohol does isn’t it unfair to human life to sell us the item (alcohol) that is actually physically harming and killing people but not the item (marijuana) that can save lives and financial deficit ? This question is directed to Mississippi leaders….

  17. Chris

    “Thank god for Mississippi.” …an old Alabama saying that was often used derrogatorily, now has a new and enviable ring to the ears of many.

  18. VictoriaGrantham

    Washington state is managing the sales and regulation of cannabis very well and would be an excellent place for Mississippi to look to for education, information and legal issues related to legalizing cannabis. I know first hand that it helps many chronic conditions by providing superior pain relief and does wonders for major depression as well. Some conservatives would have you believe marijuana is a gateway drug, but that simply isn’t true. It’s much safer and more effective for pain than Percocet, OxyContin, and lortab, and it’s natural!

  19. This is a long time coming, it’s about time. God made all seed bearing plants and said use them to the good of man kind! I first hand have seen the up side and down of this subject there really is no down!!!!!! Other than doing a deep couch

  20. sherry

    Where is the petition? There is a new Petition for 2018. Would like to sign. Initiative No. 60 Article15 section 286

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