When Mississippi’s medical marijuana initiative was signed into law in February 2022, we knew we wanted students in the University of Mississippi School of Journalism and New Media, at the S. Gale Denley Student Media Center and the Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College to help tell that story for our community, to answer as many questions as possible and to bring to light both the opportunities and the challenges surrounding the cultivation, production, sale and use of medical marijuana in Mississippi.
The project, “Marijuana: Good Medicine?”, was a nine-month endeavor focused on investigating how Mississippi’s decision to become the 37th state to adopt a law allowing the use of medical cannabis would affect the lives of people locally and across the state, including patients and physicians, in businesses and law enforcement, farmers and entrepreneurs and, of course, on college campuses.
With this project, student journalists, who typically concentrate on campus news, moved into the realm of professional journalists. They had the exceptional opportunity to cover one of the state’s biggest news stories in the same competitive arena as reporters and producers from Mississippi’s most respected newspaper, television, radio and digital news organizations. Rarely do students get such real-world experience.
Six honors students accepted an invitation to join the reporting team and added their perspectives from other disciplines including biology, legal studies and other majors. In all, 16 students from eight degree programs at the university traveled to more than a dozen communities across the state and to Nevada for their reporting. To inform their stories, they gathered and analyzed data some of which had never been previously published.
As audiences read through the articles and watched the videos online, the goal was to have them come away with a better understanding of the new law and its impact on our state and its people, as well as an appreciation for the hard work of these talented student journalists.