Mississippi voters hit the polls with medical marijuana program, Senate seat, new state flag on the ballot

Mississippi votes on U.S. Senate seat, new state flag and medical marijuana

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - Voters in the Magnolia State are deciding a number of issues this Election Day-- including who should serve as U.S. Senator from Mississippi for the next six years and whether to adopt a new state flag.

They will also decide whether Mississippi should adopt a medical marijuana program.

Medical marijuana initiative

Voters determining right now whether Mississippi will become the latest state to legalize medical marijuana but it’s not as simple as that.

The way the ballot is structured means that Mississippi voters have two questions to consider. Both would legalize medicinal marijuana but in different ways.

Initiative 65, which is on the ballot because of a petition drive, would put the state department of health in charge of the medical marijuana program.

Mississippi voters to decide between two medical marijuana initiatives

It would let doctors prescribe medical cannabis for patients with 22 conditions like epilepsy, cancer and multiple sclerosis.

Initiative 65-A is the alternative that state lawmakers are proposing.

It would limit medical cannabis to only patients who are terminally ill. It would also leave it up to state lawmakers to determine how exactly the program would be set up.

Voters will first be asked if they approve of either initiative. They can also vote against both.

They’ll then be asked which initiative they support if the first question passes.

Supporters of 65 say their proposal is better because it takes the control away from politicians.

Mississippi medical marijuana initiatives

But some people, like Mississippi’s State Health Officer Dr. Thomas Dobbs, says Initiative 65 would be impossible to regulate.

“Thirty-four other states have regulated medical marijuana programs and millions of patients are receiving relief through those programs and there is zero reason why patients who are suffering here in Mississippi should have to wait any longer for medical marijuana,” said James Grantham with Mississippians for Compassionate Care.

“If you look at the way Initiative 65 is structured, it would put marijuana in the Mississippi constitution and all the rules that are laid within that initiative are going to be in the constitution and we can’t change it," said Dobbs.

Dobbs says he’s not telling people how to vote but he says people should do their homework.

For either initiative to pass, it not only needs a simple majority of votes but must also get 40% of the total votes cast.

U.S. Senate Race

It’s a rematch from 2018 between incumbent Republican Cindy Hyde-Smith and her Democratic challenger Mike Espy.

A recent poll found Hyde-Smith up by about eight points, however a poll in September had her up by just one point

Regardless, Espy’s campaign says this race is close and they believe they can squeak out a win.

Espy tries to unseat Sen. Hyde-Smith

Espy is counting on a big turnout from African-Americans while Hyde-Smith is hoping President Donald Trump’s popularity in Mississippi gifts her the numbers she needs to retain her seat.

Ole Miss political science professor Dr. Conor Dowling says research shows long lines tend to discourage people from voting, and he says those lines are typically in African-American communities.

“It certainly could be the case this hurts or has the potential to make it more difficult for the African-American community in Mississippi to vote. I think the Espy campaign has done a lot of messaging on this, on the importance of voting," said Dowling.

Both candidates spent the last few weeks barnstorming the state. Even today they’re still campaigning -- encouraging their supporters to get out and vote. And to not get out of line.

Another issue that is on the ballot is ballot measure number two eliminating Mississippi’s electoral college.

Right now, the winner for state offices like governor must not only win the popular vote but they must also win a majority of votes in a majority of state house districts.

If no candidate does that, the state House of Representatives chooses the winner.

This measure would make it so the candidate who gets the most votes on Election Day wins.

We’ll let you know how it turns out.

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