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Angie Calhoun is the founder of the Mississippi Cannabis Patients Alliance. She stepped down as chairwoman of the Mississippi Medical Marijuana Association, a trade association, to form the alliance.

Calhoun is a member of Puckett Baptist Church, a board member of the Rankin County Republican Executive Committee and volunteers time with the Rankin County Sheriff’s Department trustee re-entry program. She is employed at Austin Enterprises.

She and her husband, Brad Calhoun, a Rankin County supervisor who represents District 3, have one son, Austin, age 25.

When was the Mississippi Cannabis Patients Alliance formed?

“We formed about a month ago. I’ve been doing patient advocacy since before Initiative 65, which became the constitutional amendment legalizing medical marijuana in Mississippi.”

What motivated you to form the alliance?

“My son had chronic Lyme disease and had to move to Colorado to get medical marijuana. That was back in 2014-2015 when he became sick. In 2016, he moved to Colorado.

“He had seen over 20 doctors and he was on 17 prescriptions. He had chronic and debilitating pain and suffered with nausea and vomiting. He lost about 40 pounds. I began to study and realize that cannabis helps cancer patients with nausea and vomiting and I thought maybe it would help him. He had seizures and I thought that cannabis would help with that. It all diminished our son’s quality of life. There were times when I walked into his room and he looked like a skeleton with a sheet over his body. My husband and I knew we had to try something.

Eventually, he moved to Colorado so he could have access to medical marijuana, which he needed. I stayed with him until he stabilized, and it got into his system. After a few months, he was able to start working, have friends over and enjoy life. He was 19 when he moved there.”

What is your goal with the alliance?

“I will be a voice and a helping hand and stronghold for the patients of Mississippi. People are continuing to suffer because of the few that have caused roadblock after roadblock, from Madison Mayor Mary Hawkins to the Mississippi Supreme Court to the governor not calling a special session.

“I want to stand up and make sure patients get safe access to medical cannabis. Our goal is to get a safe and effective program up in the near future.”

Will you work with the Mississippi Legislature?

“Yes. We will work with legislators and be a watchdog to make sure the industry is producing safe, tested and effective products. The beauty of the medical marijuana program is that we will have testing facilities and every batch of cannabis whether in flower or edible form, any type, has to be tested to make sure there are no contaminants. Contaminants could be mold, pesticides, herbicides, lead or heavy metals. I’ve always preached for the safety of the patient. If somebody goes to the illicit market, they don’t know where the marijuana is coming from or what it’s been sprayed with.”

“We want to be involved with policy making to inform the Legislature, law enforcement officers and work on many different levels to make sure the program works properly for the patient.”

Can someone interested join the alliance?

“Yes. The alliance will have memberships and they’re free. We’ll have sponsors through different agencies and people who share the same vision we do. We will rely on the public for contributions, but they will be totally voluntary. I’m still working on a website, but the alliance is registered with the secretary of state and has a federal tax ID number.”

How did you educate yourself about medical marijuana?

“It was a heartbreaking journey, but because of my son’s illness, I delved into learning about it. I was able to share my son’s story across the state through Initiative 65. I told it so people could understand the benefits of cannabis for sick people.

“He wants people to know and understand that medical cannabis made a difference in his life. It was his senior year of high school when he started to get sick and had to do a homeschool program. He was an active teenager who loved to go fish and hunt and play sports. He was really sick when he wasn’t going out and doing the things other teenagers would do.”

What else should people know about the use of cannabis?

“We need to educate people about the rules and regulations. People should know you can’t drive under the effects of cannabis. It’s extremely important to micro dose, which means using a little at a time until you find your tolerance level. Everybody reacts different to cannabis use. You have to find out what works for you. A 200-pound man can take one dose and it could be effective, but a 100-pound woman could take the same dose and it might not be effective.”

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