A nurse practitioner’s voice on medical marijuana, Tuesday’s vote

Published 1:45 pm Monday, November 2, 2020

By Betty Jo Alexander

On November 3rd, we will have the opportunity to vote to help thousands of sick patients across the state, including many right here in our community. As a pediatric nurse practitioner in Picayune for over two decades, I’ve seen so many children suffering from debilitating conditions like cancer, epilepsy, and autism. It breaks my heart every time, and I am asking you to vote with them in mind.


On the ballot, we will have the chance to vote for Initiative 65 or Alternative 65A. Initiative 65 would set up a safe, regulated medical marijuana program for qualified patients in Mississippi who have a doctor’s certification. Here’s how it would work: To qualify, you would have to have 1 of 22 debilitating medical conditions like cancer, epilepsy, or multiple sclerosis. These 22 conditions are specifically listed in Initiative 65.


Under Initiative 65, once your doctor certifies that you have one of the listed debilitating conditions, you would get a patient ID card. You could then go to a licensed treatment center to get your medicine. This entire process would be regulated by the Mississippi Department of Health.


On the other hand, the Legislature’s Alternative 65A doesn’t list any conditions or explain how it would be regulated. The Legislature has had more than 20 chances to pass a bill to create a program for these patients who are suffering, but they have blocked them every single time. More than 200,000 Mississippians signed petitions to put Initiative 65 on the ballot. Since the Legislature won’t set up a functioning program to help these patients, the ballot initiative process is the only way for the people of Mississippi to have a say.


I personally know children with epilepsy and autism who have tried several kinds of medicine and found nothing that would help. Medical marijuana could help them. There are numerous studies that show that medical marijuana is effective to treat a number of debilitating medical conditions.


I’m encouraging people to read Initiative 65 for themselves instead of listening to how politicians tell them to vote. You can see the specific list of conditions, the zoning regulations, the regulated process of how treatment centers would work. It’s all in there. Initiative 65 creates a regulated program where doctors get to help their patients. Alternative 65A puts that power in the hands of the Legislature, and there is nothing in 65A that requires them to ever put a program together – 65A only gives the option.


34 other states including Arkansas, Louisiana, and Florida have approved the use of medical marijuana. Across the country, more than 3.5 million Americans are using this medicine to relieve pain and treat other symptoms of debilitating medical conditions. I strongly believe that Mississippi patients deserve access to medical marijuana as well, and that Initiative 65 is the best way to give them this option.


Betty Jo Alexander is a Certified Pediatric Nurse Practitioner at Picayune Pediatrics. She has worked in the medical field for over 30 years.