Mississippi voters may have the opportunity to decide next year whether or not patients in the state can seek medical cannabis.

The advocacy group Mississippians for Compassionate Care on Wednesday submitted a petition to the secretary of state’s office to place an initiative on the 2020 ballot to legalize medical marijuana.

The group submitted 105,686 signatures – well above the minimum of 86,185 signatures required by state law. The law also requires at least 17,237 certified signatures from each of the five congressional districts as they existed in the year 2000.

According to the Clarion Ledger, the group actually collected more than 214,000 signatures, but 105,686 were certified by local clerks. The deadline to submit the signatures was Friday.

Still, that doesn’t necessarily mean that the initiative will qualify for next year’s ballot. The signatures will now undergo a review by the secretary of state’s office in order to determine its eligibility.

“The medical marijuana petition, No. 65, was filed [Wednesday]. At this time, we do not know whether the signature requirement has been fulfilled,” a spokesperson for the secretary of state said in a statement. “We are in the process of reviewing and determining the number of signatures so as to file with the Legislature on the first day of the 2020 session in accordance with [state law].”

Should the initiative make it to the ballot, Mississippi could join the more than 30 other states that have legalized medical marijuana. If the initiative is approved by voters, physicians in the state could start prescribing cannabis to patients suffering from a host of debilitating medical conditions: cancer, epilepsy and other seizures, Parkinson’s disease, Huntington’s disease, multiple sclerosis, post-traumatic stress disorder, HIV, AIDS, chronic pain, ALS, glaucoma, Crohn’s disease, sickle-cell anemia, autism with aggressive or self-injurious behavior, and spinal cord injuries, among others. Those patients would then obtain an identification card from the Mississippi Department of Health.

Actvists in Mississippi spearheaded the petition drive in the fall of 2018; by February of this year, they had more than 45,000 signatures. One of the leading advocates for the effort has been Shea Dobson, the Republican mayor of Ocean Springs, Mississippi who is also on the steering committee for Mississippians for Compassionate Care.

“To me it’s just an opportunity to give people more options to make the best decision for their lives,” Dobson said earlier this year, as quoted by local news network WLBT. ““I believe in getting government out of healthcare and letting people make their own decisions on how they medicate themselves.”

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