Griffin weed

Steven Griffin speaks to the Laurel City Council about his plan for legalizing marijuana in Mississippi. (Photo by Mark Thornton)

 

Laurel man trumpets economic boon with marijuana legalization

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Supervisors and City Councilmen heard from a Laurel man who was touting a new industry that would bring 7,500 jobs to the state and have an estimated economic impact of $450 million.

Steven Griffin insists he isn’t just blowing smoke when he talks about the money the marijuana business could bring to Mississippi.

“We’re not asking you for money, we’re going to bring you money,” he told the Board of Supervisors.

Griffin was promoting Ballot Measure 67, the Cannabis Freedom Act, that he hopes the voters will be able to decide on.

“It would allow adults in Mississippi to create markets that would benefit the state,” he said. “Once it’s passed, we would bring schools so people could learn more about the process.”

The proposed ballot title is, “Should the Mississippi Constitution be amended to incorporate the “Mississippi Cannabis Freedom Act?” Griffin proposes making marijuana use legal for people 18 and older and to authorize the state to collect taxes on cannabis sales.

“Seven percent would go to the state and 3 percent would go to the county,” he said, “and you can do with (the money) what you want.” 

In order to get a ballot initiative, a total of 21,547 certified signatures have to be collected from each of the state’s four congressional districts. Griffin said his petition has been approved by the Attorney General’s Office and the Secretary of State’s Office, but he and other supporters are in the process of collecting signatures that have to be certified by circuit clerks in each of the 82 counties.

He noted that Gov. Phil Bryant signed into law the legalization of a form of marijuana oil for use by children who suffer from seizure disorders. Bryant has said repeatedly, though, that he opposes any effort to legalize marijuana in the state. 

Thirty-three states and the District of Columbia have passed laws legalizing marijuana in some form, mostly for medical use. Ten states and the District of Columbia allow marijuana for recreational use.

Griffin said that there is research and development and other aspects of the proposal that are just like any other viable industry.

“We’re working hard to help Mississippi,” he said.

Just before Griffin spoke, the Board of Supervisors announced that the county had entered into a contract with the Zuber Law Firm in Ocean Springs to join class-action litigation related to the ongoing opioid addiction crisis.

Numerous cities, counties and states have joined similar lawsuits against pharmaceutical companies, retail pharmacies and doctors, with attorneys claiming that the “epidemic” of addiction has become a public health crisis.

In Tuesday’s Laurel City Council meeting, Griffin gave a Powerpoint presentation, showing how the cannabis and hemp industries would bring in money from taxes and licensing fees by creating jobs in the medical and agricultural fields.

Legalizing marijuana would “reduce incarceration and increase the economy,” he said. “We can make a change for the good of the people.”

Mississippi House Bill 1371, the Medical Marijuana Act of 2019, authored by Rep. Omeria Scott of Laurel, died in committee Tuesday.

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