The following is an article written by Andy Gipson, copied below for analysis. It was written with the intention to persuade people against voting for Initiative 65. You can find the original article here.

I found that this article both mispresented Initiative 65 and attempted to manipulate his readers, so I’ve created a detailed analysis of this article. It is disgusting to me that an official would do this, and I want to make sure truth is clear to those who want it. For clarity “Andy’s article is in quotes” and my analysis is in bold. If you’d like to read my thoughts on this and Initiative 65, take a look at my most recent blog post.

“When it comes to legislation, and in ballot initiatives, ‘the devil is in the details.’  We’ve heard much in recent months about the Medical Marijuana Initiative 65 and its legislative alternative, Initiative 65A.”

Andy begins the article by suggesting there is something wrong with the details of the bill that he’s about to discuss.

“Many news articles have been written, many personal testimonials given about why many people want medical marijuana as an option, and many opposing viewpoints exist as well.”

He notes that there are many varying opinions on the issue. This illuminates the controversy.

“But how many people have actually read the six pages of proposed constitutional amendment known as Initiative 65? The other day I sat down and read it, word for word.”

This suggests that people may not know what they are talking about. He invites doubt: Are these people who have been talking about the bill experts on the issue? Are you? Here he offers himself up as the expert. He stands out against the confusion as someone who has read every bit of the bill. He knows what he’s talking about.

“It’s too bad the six-page change to our State Constitution won’t be printed on the ballot.  If it were, I have no doubt it would not pass.  And it won’t pass with my vote.  Whether you are for or against the general concept of ‘medical marijuana,’ I urge you to seriously consider what I am about to say and do not vote for this misguided Initiative 65.”

Here, he effectively says, “If people could read this before they voted, they wouldn’t vote for it.” He submits that it is so faulty that anyone could see why it’s bad, and that it wouldn’t garner enough votes to pass. And here, the “expert” leverages the authority he has set up. “I certainly won’t do it.” But, he makes an appeal to people on both sides, suggesting that whether you are for or against medical marijuana, there are important details to consider and you shouldn’t vote for this proposition.

“The proposed Initiative 65 is being well funded by out-of-state interests and supported by some well-meaning Mississippians.  But what you probably have not heard is, if enacted, this proposed amendment would give complete constitutional control over ‘medical marijuana’ to an unelected, unaccountable Mississippi State Department of Health.”

“Here’s the secret!”

He creates fear, saying that “control” is being given to an “unelected” (you don’t get to choose these people), “unaccountable” (these people can do whatever they want without repercussion), “Mississippi State Department of Health”.

This is significant because he is effectively saying that the already established Mississippi State Department of Health – the same one you have now, that manages a myriad of other regulations and health issues – is not deserving of your trust.

“You heard me correctly.” 

He adds extra weight to the shock. Let it sink in.

“By voting for Initiative 65, you will be giving complete and total authority over marijuana in Mississippi to an unelected state agency that will then have the unquestioned power to issue rules with the force of law over the ‘tracking and labelling’ of medical marijuana; qualifications for processing medical marijuana; medical marijuana identification cards; standards for testing facilities; use of marijuana in nursing homes; reciprocal agreements with other states; qualifications for caregivers and treatment centers; implementation and operation of a “statewide data base system” and penalties for violations.”

Here he repeats himself for empahsis (“unelected state agency”) and he makes you responsible for the supposed transfer of power that could take place. This will be your fault if it happens.

In addition, there are several other things to note here.

First, his goal here is to inspire fear of that “complete constitutional control” he mentioned before. He uses phrases like “unquestioned power”, and “issue rules with the force of law” to add fear about what could happen.

But read what they’re being given “power” over. It has to do with regulation, like what we already have in the medical community. These are things that are meant to make sure medical practices are being done safely, and legally, in the right places, by people who have the certifications to do it.

This isn’t new, it isn’t bad, and it isn’t overreaching. In fact, the Department of Health already regulates various medical industries in the state. That’s part of what they’re here for – to make sure everything is above board in their area of jurisdiction.

“The Mississippi State Department of Health already has a huge scope of authority in our lives as we are witnessing every day during the COVID-19 pandemic. “

This is a subtle appeal to people who don’t want to wear masks or follow lockdowns. He’s saying, “You’ve seen that they can require us to do these things that we don’t agree with.”

If you haven’t agreed with the mask mandate or lockdowns, this is to make you associate this issue with that issue. These are two separate issues, and they should not be conflated. Rules and regulations regarding a contagious pandemic are not the same as those given to oversee the medical use of a drug.”

“Why in the name of anything decent would Mississippians vote to give complete and total control over medical marijuana to the Mississippi Department of Health?  Why would we vote to give complete and total control over anything to ANY unelected state agency?”

Again, he reinforces this idea that complete and total control over something is being given to this agency, and he creates distrust in the agency (and it’s worth noting that the Board of Directors for this agency are actually appointed by the Governor himself).

They aren’t doing anything new. Initiative 65 is giving them the task and capacity to regulate the implementation of medical marijuana so everything remains safe and legal.

“This Initiative 65 is the exact opposite of what it means to be conservative.” 

This suggests that if you vote for this, you aren’t a real conservative, potentially creating a “fear of being the other” and calling into question your values based on misrepresentations of the bill (as I mentioned above).

“If you vote in support of Initiative 65 you are voting to support a state-run and state-controlled marijuana industry.” 

This is only a half-truth.

The bill requires people to be authorized to get medical marijuana by licensed physicians and has regulations to keep people safe. There are no restrictions on how many of these treatment centers there can be or how much they can charge. People have to apply for licenses to open one of these treatment centers up, which is understandable (and of course there should be restrictions on who can run these treatment centers). This can also be taxed, and that tax can only be used by the department assigned to manage this program.

This isn’t “state run and state controlled” any more than any other industry that has potential dangers to people. The department will have the power to protectively regulate the industry, just like it can with its other areas of jurisdiction.

“Can you imagine the level of corruption that would result from such an industry in our State?”

Here he appeals again to this overreach of power by suggesting that things will be terribly corrupt.

This is a poor argument because the state isn’t running these treatment centers. The state is creating regulations and practices to keep everything safe and above board. Read my above comment again if needed.

This is a healthy kind of regulation.

“Can you imagine marijuana dispensaries in every commercial location in Mississippi, offering marijuana for anyone walking in with some form of pain? I’ve seen examples in other states of marijuana dispensaries set up in old abandoned motels, complete with billboard advertisements, and we don’t need that in Mississippi. It’s wrong for our families.”

This is a straw man argument, and this is where he temporarily drops his argument about government overreach to appeal to cultural fears. Here he is creating a “straw man” for you to be afraid of and angry at instead of dealing with the actual issues. In this case the straw man is “with these dispensaries in place, anyone could come in, grab some marijuana, and get high”.

But that’s not what the bill outlines. The bill outlines specific “debilitating medical conditions” that people must have in order to qualify for medical marijuana, as well as restrictions on how much they can have at a time. A licensed physician must create a prescription for medical marijuana, and they may also prescribe medical marijuana for things that aren’t on the list if they still fit within the relative category (which gives the physician appropriate agency to decide their patient’s treatment).

These are regulated treatment centers ran that have requirements on who they can sell to and how much they can give, not random dispensaries like you have in places where recreational marijuana is legal.

“Did you know this Constitutional amendment would require a statewide tracking database of users?”

It does, he’s right. To be specific, the proposal states that the department will be responsible for the “implementation and operation of a statewide data base system to support the utilization of identification cards.”

Yes, in order to issue identification cards to restrict marijuana usage to appropriate amounts, you have to know whose name you’re printing on those.

This may surprise you, but every doctor you’ve ever been too has a healthcare database with your information tied to it. It’s rather important – and it’s not an issue, just like this isn’t.

“Will the federal ATF be able to monitor it and revoke your freedom to buy a firearm, to hunt, or even revoke your concealed carry license because now you are violating federal laws against possession or use of marijuana?”

This is another straw man argument. In this case, it’s “the federal government could use this information to take away your guns.”

This is only posed as a question because that’s all you can really do with it. This statement isn’t rooted in reason, it’s just a scare tactic.

Just like medical facilities, these treatment facilities will be required to maintain medical confidentiality with their records just like your doctor (per the bill).

“Initiative 65 is wrong for so many reasons – I’ve outlined just a few.  Initiative 65 is wrong for Mississippi. As a proven conservative in our State, I am urging you to not support Initiative 65.”

Again, he offers rejecting Initiative 65 as the conservative choice, and he offers himself as the authority here. He’s “a proven conservative” (and according to him, that means you should take what he says about this medical bill seriously).

“If you want to support the concept, vote against Initiative 65 and vote for the alternative 65A. At least with the alternative 65A you retain a voice through the legislative process and the ballot box.  “

He offers what he claims is an alternative to Initiative 65. However, 65A only allows medical marijuana for those who are terminally ill. It does nothing to aid the suffering of those who are continuing to live their lives with suffering.

He says “you retain a voice through the legislative process.” What he’s saying is that you’ll be “heard”, but nothing will happen. You can express your opinion, but please don’t make any actual, large-scale changes.

It’s also worth noting that 65A also states the following in its bill:

  1. “The program shall be administered by an appropriate state agency”
  2. “Marijuana products that are used by qualified persons in the program shall be of suitable pharmaceutical quality and prepared by state-licensed manufacturers”
  3. “The program shall provide for a limited number of state-licensed manufacturers of marijuana products”
  4. “The program shall have a patient registry for program enrollment, patient tracking, and treatment outcomes assessment.”

Interestingly enough, many (f not all) of the things he argued against are in 65A, which he says you should vote for if you’re going to vote for one. A department is overseeing and managing it and a database will be created and used for patient registry. In addition to that, there are to be “state-licensed manufacturers” of cannabis products and “a limited number” of them. Only healthcare professionals can distribute the medical marijuana (and I’d like to again clarify, in Initiative 65, a physician is still required to create a prescription).

“But whatever you do, don’t vote for Initiative 65.  Don’t give the Mississippi Department of Health yet another stranglehold over your personal healthcare and freedom.  We have enough of that already.”

This is again a false appeal. He suggests that you’ll lose freedom from this – but you won’t. That’s not what the bill is doing.

He says that if you can read it before submitting your ballot, it wouldn’t pass. Fortunately, you can, and I highly encourage you to compare what he’s suggested to the actual text of the bill. 

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