As the funky sounds of Austin-based Roxy Roca blasts over the hundreds gathered for Live at Five in Hattiesburg's Town Square Park, old friends reminiscence over beer, their children greet strange but friendly dogs, a local vendor struggles to keep up with demand for tacos, and across the street, the Medical Marijuana 2020 ballot initiative racks up signatures.
All across Mississippi, supporters of the campaign spend the weekends canvassing crowded local events like this one, searching for the 86,185 signatures necessary to get legalization on the state's 2020 ballot. Hope for Harper Grace
Ashley Durval first filed the initiative in July. She hopes medical marijuana can be used to treat her daughter, Harper Grace, who has Dravet Syndrome, a rare genetic dysfunction of the brain that begins in infancy with intractable epileptic seizures that will continue for the rest of the child's life. The seizures can last for hours and come in clusters.
In medical marijuana, many are finding a far more effective treatment than the traditional pharmaceutical cocktails. Durval first learned about the promise of medical marijuana for treating Dravet after watching a 2013 CNN special with Dr. Sanjay Gupta, and has been fighting to bring it to Mississippi ever since.
In 2014, Harper sat in Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant's lap as he signed Harper Grace's law, which was supposed to allow her and other children like her to obtain treatment with cannabis oil at the University of Mississippi Medical Center. Because UMMC is federally funded, however, federal approval is required and has yet to be granted; Harper Grace's Law has not allowed for the treatment of even one child with cannabis oil in the four years since Bryant signed it.
The Medical Marijuana 2020 initiative would bypass the roadblocks that law ran into by allowing for the creation of medical marijuana treatment