A Republican-controlled state in the deep South is poised to hop on the legal cannabis bandwagon thanks to overwhelming support of a new medical marijuana bill.
The Mississippi Medical Cannabis Act earned a 104-to-14 vote of approval Wednesday in the state’s House of Representatives and will go to the Senate on Thursday for a rubber stamp from leaders in that chamber.
Voters said yes
Sponsored by Republican Sen. Kevin Blackwell, the bill would provide the needed support for a regulated industry. Voters approved a medical cannabis initiative at the November 2020 ballot box, only to see the state’s supreme court put talks of starting the program on pause to clarify language in the Mississippi Constitution.
Approval from the legislature and Republican Gov. Tate Reeves would ensure the medical program finally gets off the ground as early as this year.
The Mississippi Senate voted 46-to-5 in favor of SB2095 earlier this month, but House leadership amended it, meaning the Senate must again vote to approve it before sending it to Reeves’ desk.
Reeves initially opposed the bill based on its 3.5 gram monthly limit for patients, arguing the limit was too high. He threatened to veto an initial draft of SB2095 published in November but approves of recent amendments.
The bill’s current version lets patients with 23 qualifying medical conditions purchase up to 3.5 grams of cannabis flower or 1 gram of cannabis concentrates per day, but no more than 3 ounces of the plant in a single month.
Regulated by the state
Similar to most other states, Mississippi’s health department would regulate legal cannabis. The bill would also give local governments power to opt out of letting dispensaries open in their jurisdiction.
Mississippi’s Republican leadership is vehemently against adult-use marijuana, but generally approves of medical cannabis after 69 percent of voters approved of the November 2020 initiative. Blackwell and Drug Policy Committee chair Rep. Lee Yancey have repeatedly discussed “building a wall” around the medical program so only patients can access the plant.
“We don’t want kids or healthy adults to be able to buy it,” Blackwell said. “We’re focusing exclusively on adult patients who have tried everything else. This is for medicine only.”