M.i.s.s….i.s.s…i.p.p.i Marijuana – Mississippi Becomes 37th State to Legalize Medical Cannabis
Once again, Mississippi is back on track to be the next state to approve medical cannabis laws. The case has dragged on for so long due to the Republicans’ stance against cannabis. For many months, Republicans voted against this reform because they did not want their kids and healthy youths anywhere near cannabis plants.
The Southern State became the 37th state with a legal medical cannabis program, thanks to a newly proposed and modified measure. Last Wednesday, the state’s House of Representatives approved the Mississippi Medical Cannabis Act with a landslide vote of 104 to 14. The bill was then sent to the Senate and approved on February 3rd.
Change in Mississippi
The residents of Mississippi were due for a change in cannabis reforms. In 2020, the voters approved a previous medical bill initiated on the general election ballots. However, the measure was dismissed by the state’s legislature on the grounds that the language used therein had issues. At first, the state’s supreme court gave voters hope of implementing the measure in record time, only for more issues to spring up. Although voters attempted to clarify the language in the Mississippi constitution, the action was indefinitely paused.
This latest approval from the state’s legislature and its Republican governor, Tate Reeves, will finally restore the will of Mississippi voters.
The Senate gave the measure a rubber stamp when it got to them because they previously approved the bill in the first weeks of the year. A majority of the lawmakers voted in favor of the medical bill in a vote of 46 to 5. However, due to some proposed changes, it had to be returned to the House for amendment. According to the Constitution, the Senate had to vote again to officially pass the bill before it can be forwarded to the Governor’s office.
When the bill was first introduced in 2021, the governor threatened to veto it based on an argument that the proposed ounces per month limit per patient was too high. He insisted that the published initial draft must be amended before being approved. The recently approved bill meets the specified requirements of Governor Reeves.
Details of the new Mississippi Medical Cannabis Bill
The approved bill permits patients in the program to buy up to 3.5 g of cannabis flowers. For patients who prefer cannabis concentrates, they qualify to purchase up to a gram daily. However, all patients are limited to a monthly limit of 3 ounces of cannabis. This amount is considerably lower than the limits in other legal states, but Gov. Reeves stressed that the program must not exceed these limits.
Residents who qualify to be registered under the proposed medical cannabis program must be patients of one of the following diseases: Crohn’s, spinal cord diseases, Alzheimer’s, muscular dystrophy, Huntington, Parkinson’s, cancer, glaucoma, HIV, hepatitis, AIDS, sickle-cell anemia, ulcerative colitis, severe mental disorders, seizures, chronic pain or nausea, spastic quadriplegia, and neuropathy. The bill’s authors said that the legislation could be modified later to include other conditions through a petition.
Patients ready to register would pay a fee of $25 for state-issued registration cards. It could cost less than this for some. The bill does not authorize the personal cultivation of medical cannabis by either the patient or caregiver. In addition to this, patients are forbidden from smoking or vaping these products in public areas like the subway, transport vehicles, or parks. Patients caught driving under the influence will be punished according to the law.
All products must be purchased from state-licensed dispensaries. Like most states, the bill proposes a 5% wholesale tax rate on marijuana-derived medications. The state will also tax these retail sales. The state’s department of health will regulate Mississippi’s medical cannabis program. Once Governor Reeves signs the bill into law, a nine-member advisory committee will be carefully selected to lay down rules and regulations that would not hinder patients’ access and industry safety in any way. Local governments can choose not to allow cannabis stores to operate in their localities.
Previous attempts to legalize medical cannabis
The Republican-dominant state of Mississippi was staunchly against any form of cannabis reform two years ago. Even now that medical cannabis has been approved, lawmakers have clarified that they do not support a recreational cannabis industry.
In 2020, over 65% of Mississippi voters approved the medical cannabis initiative in the state. The measure, chaired by Representative Lee Yancey, was drafted to permit only registered patients to access the products. They stressed that the drugs would serve only the most critically ill adult patients in the state.
The newly approved bill was drafted from previous proposed medical cannabis drafts. After that, lengthy proposals were made to create a middle ground for voters and the government. Senator Blackwell, the bill’s lead sponsor, said that the bill was amended over 45 times. With each modification, the bill got better. Blackwell once commented that he would not have seen himself leading a medical cannabis movement some years ago. He mentioned that he was influenced by the public’s strong support for the compassionate use of cannabis for health reasons.
The new bill, SB-2095, legalizing the use and sales of medical cannabis in Mississippi, will be passed into law within five days after being sent to Governor Reeves’ desk. The bill would be automatically passed into law if the governor refused to append his signature within the earmarked duration, thanks to the margins of votes from both parts of the legislature, which is enough to override a veto. The passage of this bill marks the start of newfound relief for patients in the state.
Once Mississippi completes signing this bill into law, only 13 states will have no medical cannabis legislation. This number is expected to be reduced this year as most states, including South Carolina, Nebraska, and Tennessee will have the measure on their ballots during the midterm elections. Voters are taking matters into their own hands and have decided to fight like other states to have medical programs running in their states. Federal cannabis reforms are also expected to take shape this year.