New initiative to legalize pot gets rolling

New initiative to legalize pot gets rolling

GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - Six states recently approved recreational or medical marijuana use. Mississippi could have had it on the ballot, but Initiative 48 didn't get enough signatures.

However, the effort to legalize pot in the Magnolia State is far from over, as Initiative 60 begins to roll out.

David Singletary - whose alter ego is known as "Bud Hemp" - is taking his cannabis-promoting trailer everywhere he goes. For the executive director of the Mississippi Cannabis Coalition, it's almost a religious calling.

"This is a mission from God for me," Singletary said. "I encourage everybody to read the Bible from front to back and you won't find cannabis listed in there anywhere. The Jesus I believe in believes in compassion and moderation."

Singletary, a church going, self-confessed Libertarian, even has a music CD - Big Dave Does Gospel.

"It's an uphill battle in this state, and it's conservative Christian, and known for that to be part of the Bible belt," Hemp said. "But you know, casino gambling is legal here. And you can go into a casino and throw your life savings away any day of the week. You'd be hard pressed to throw away your life on pot. It's only a natural fit for this state, especially with casino gambling. It's increased Colorado's tourism 80 percent."

The last initiative received only 30,000 signatures, far less than required. Hemp says he has 30,000 already for the new effort with a little under a year to go before deadline.

But, the process won't be much easier. The ballot initiative requires more than 17,000 signatures from each of the five districts. In total, more than 86,000 signatures all before the end of September 2017.

Hemp splits his time between his two homes in Jackson and the Coast. The retired hotel owner, who says he suffers from chronic pain, spends a couple of hours a day on the side of the road drumming up support. People like Cassie Crider of Gulfport pull over for him.

"I work in an industry where I see a lot of people whose lives are destroyed by the pills, by the heroin, meth - all that stuff," Crider said. "And nobody's lives get destroyed by this."

The effort is to put Initiative 60 on the ballot in 2018, and Singletary believes the turnout in the state will be bigger than recent presidential election.

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