Elections

Mississippi Democrats fighting for Sen. Wicker's seat want to legalize pot

Medical marijuana grows in 2013 in Denver.
Medical marijuana grows in 2013 in Denver. MCT

David Baria isn't the only Democrat running for U.S. Senate who supports the legalization of medical marijuana.

At least three other Democrats favor legalization of the drug.

When Baria, D-Bay St. Louis, held a town hall by telephone last week, a caller asked where he stood on the issue, the Jackson Free Press reported. The leader of the Democratic Caucus in the Mississippi House then became the highest profile candidate in the six-person field for the June 5 primary to publicly back legalization.

The winner of the primary (or the June 26 runoff, if necessary) will face either Sen. Roger Wicker or GOP Challenger Richard Boyanton of Diamondhead in the Nov. 6 general election.

"I can tell you without reservation that I am in favor of legalizing medical marijuana that can be prescribed while under a doctor's care," he said . "I know that medical marijuana has benefits for patients suffering from PTSD and for folks experiencing pain, like cancer patients."

His House colleague Omeria Scott, D-Laurel, has introduced a bill the past two years to license and tax the retail sale of marijuana. Both times the bill died in committee.

"The Legislature declares that passage of this act is an exercise of the police powers of the state for the protection of the economic and social welfare and the health, peace and morals of the people of this state," her bills begin. "The Legislature further declares that it is unlawful under state law to cultivate, manufacture, distribute or sell retail marijuana and retail marijuana products except in compliance with the terms, conditions, limitations and restrictions in this act."

Another Democrat, Jensen Bohren of Benton, favors legalizing marijuana, period, and he believes the overwhelming majority of Mississippians agree.

"Federal marijuana legalization has been one of the cornerstones of my campaign since November, and I have found about 80 percent of Mississippians want full legalization" he wrote in an email. "First off, as an underground market, Marijuana isn't taxed, and that tax could be put to very good use not only in Mississippi, but nationwide.

"In Mississippi specifically, the Delta is ideal for growing male-only plants for hemp. From a public safety standpoint, for the nonuser, a high person is much less likely to drive under the influence compared to a drunk individual. For the individual user, a regulated market prevents 'laced' product, such as cocaine or PCP, contaminating the marijuana.

" For the medical abilities, marijuana helps with many diseases, from anxiety to inflammatory disorders. As far as public health, marijuana not only can help people recover from opioid addiction, but can replace opioids in chronic pain management. Even further, legalizing marijuana also opens up criminal justice reform, allowing those who were incarcerated due to nonviolent 'drug crimes' based on marijuana to be released, and preventing otherwise law-abiding citizens from massive legal hassle for an item that is effectively the equal of alcohol."

Democrat Victor Maurice Jr. of Gulfport said he, too, supports the legalization of marijuana.

Wicker, Boyanton and Democrats Howard Sherman of Meridian and Jerone Garland of Kosciusko did not respond to an email request for their stand on marijuana.

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