Mississippi Takes Another Step Toward Allowing Medical Cannabis

The long, drawn out back-and-forth surrounding a medical cannabis bill in Mississippi reached a potentially major breakthrough last week, with members of the state House overwhelmingly passing the legislation.

The bill passed out of the state House by a vote of 104-14, the Associated Press reported. Members of the state Senate passed the bill the previous week with a vote of 46-5, “but the House made some changes,” according to the Associated Press, and now it is down to senators to either accept those changes or bring the legislation to the negotiating table.

“This bill has been vetted probably more than any bill in my history for sure,” said Republican state House Representative Lee Yancey, as quoted by the Mississippi Clarion Ledger.

The Clarion Ledger said that Yancey, the chair of the state House Drug Policy Committee, worked closely with GOP state Senator Kevin Blackwell on the legislation throughout the summer months and into the fall.

Earlier this month, Blackwell filed a 445-page bill that was then referred to the Senate Public Health and Welfare Committee for review by Lieutenant Governor Delbert Hosemann.

According to the Clarion Ledger, Yancey “made three changes” to the bill passed last Wednesday by the state House, with the most notable dealing with the amount of cannabis a patient can procure, a major area of disagreement between lawmakers and Mississippi’s Republican governor, Tate Reeves.

Blackwell’s bill permitted patients to purchase up to 3.5 grams of cannabis per day, but Yancey’s version allows for only three ounces to be purchased at a time.

According to the Clarion Ledger, a patient “can still purchase 3.5 grams of marijuana at a time, but only six times a week.”

It is unclear if that will be enough to placate Reeves, who has said that he would prefer the limit to be lowered to 2.7 grams.

The Clarion Ledger said that Yancey considers the number “just a starting point, and he expects the legislature to increase the amount of marijuana a person can purchase each month in future years.”

“This is an effort to start small and grow rather than start big and reduce,” Yancey said.

In another notable change, the House-passed bill “puts the entirety of the program under the Mississippi State Department of Health,” according to the Clarion Ledger, whereas the Senate version tasked the Department of Agriculture and Commerce to oversee “the licensing, inspection and oversight of cannabis cultivation facilities, processing facilities, transportation and cannabis disposal entities in the state.”

Nearly 70 percent of Mississippi voters passed a proposal at the ballot in 2020 to legalize medical cannabis for patients in the state suffering from a host of conditions, including cancer, epilepsy or other seizures, Parkinson’s disease, Huntington’s disease, muscular dystrophy and multiple sclerosis. 

But the law’s path to enactment has been troubled. Last year, the Mississippi Supreme Court struck down the ballot initiative, citing a technicality that rendered it unconstitutional. 

In the wake of that ruling, state lawmakers sought to replace the nullified initiative with a new medical marijuana law, but that, too, has been hamstrung by delays.

Lawmakers produced a draft of a bill in September, but Reeves had concerns with the proposal and never called a special session to debate and pass the legislation.

“I am confident we will have a special session of the Legislature if we get the specifics of a couple of items that are left outstanding,” Reeves said at a press conference in October. “Again, we have made great progress working with our legislative leaders.”

Now, with the regular session underway, the bill returns to the Senate––but the ball remains very much in Reeves’ court. 

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Mississippi Lawmakers Propose Expanded Medical Cannabis Rules

After months of debate and back-and-forth, lawmakers in Mississippi have finally produced a bill to implement a new medical cannabis law in the state.

Republican state Senator Kevin Blackwell filed a 445-page bill on Tuesday, according to the Clarion Ledger newspaper, and the legislation was promptly referred to the Senate Public Health and Welfare Committee for review by Lieutenant. Governor Delbert Hosemann.

The Clarion Ledger reported that the chair of that committee, Democratic state Senator Hob Bryan, has said that he intends to bring the bill up for a debate before the panel on Wednesday. 

So Blackwell’s bill must effectively clear four more hurdles in order to become law: gain approval from the public health committee; pass out of the state Senate; pass out of the state House; and be signed by Republican Gov. Tate Reeves.

In other words: sit tight. 

Still, the mere filing of the bill is itself a breakthrough after a year of disagreement and delay surrounding the law.

Almost 70 percent of Mississippi voters approved a ballot initiative in 2020 to legalize medical cannabis in the state for patients with qualifying conditions that include cancer, epilepsy or other seizures, Parkinson’s disease, Huntington’s disease, muscular dystrophy and multiple sclerosis, among others.

But despite such resounding public approval, the proposal has been met with resistance ever since. In May of last year, the Mississippi Supreme Court struck down the initiative, ruling it unconstitutional on a technicality. 

Following that decision, state lawmakers have been engaged in months of negotiations with Reeves to produce a medical cannabis bill in place of the one that was nullified by the court.

In August, Blackwell expressed confidence that lawmakers could get a medical cannabis bill over the line.

“Well, I kind of get tired of saying this, but we’re getting very close,” Blackwell told Mississippi Today.” And I’m sure the folks who are out there who are wanting to use these products for medical needs and certainly for the kids with some of their seizure disorders (that are) frustrating for them. But we are working every day on this trying to advance to get to the point where we can present something to the governor.”

In September, legislators produced a draft of a bill, but Reeves never called a special session to consider the legislation, citing concerns with the drafted proposal.

“I am confident we will have a special session of the Legislature if we get the specifics of a couple of items that are left outstanding,” Reeves said at a press conference in October. “Again, we have made great progress working with our legislative leaders.”

In November, Reeves cited one part of the proposal that “forbid the Department of Public Safety from having a role in the state’s potential medical marijuana industry” as a major area of disagreement. 

“Clearly, I wasn’t going to agree to that, so we’ve made some necessary improvements to the bill, but we haven’t gotten to the point where I am comfortable yet in ensuring that we have a program that is truly ‘medical mariuana’ that has strict rules in place,” Reeves said, as quoted by Mississippi Public Broadcasting.

The governor has also raised concerns about the amount of pot a patient can purchase at one time. Now, with the Mississippi legislature officially convening last week, lawmakers will look to pass the bill in a regular session.
The Clarion Ledger reported that the new bill filed this week “allows for medical marijuana card holders to purchase 3.5 grams of the substance a day,” even though Reeves has said that he “would like to see that number lowered to 2.7 grams in most circumstances.”

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Mississippi Legislator Brings Hemp to Governor’s Office

One Mississippi Senator brought 3.5 grams worth of hemp to show Governor Tate Reeves, who has recently expressed opposition regarding the amount of cannabis allowed for the state’s medical cannabis program, in an effort to educate him about what a reasonable amount of cannabis looks like.

Amidst the many topics that are waiting to be discussed in the 2022 Mississippi legislative session, the legislative body has been building a medical cannabis program for some time now. Although both the House and Senate have expressed support for a medical cannabis program, Governor Tate Reeves’s opposition is one of the main reasons for the program’s uncertainty.

In an attempt to drive home final details for the state’s medical cannabis program, Senator Kevin Blackwell arranged a meeting with Reeves on January 5. As one of the main legislators working on building the program, Blackwell hoped to educate Reeves by bringing in a small amount of hemp as a visual guide.

The Mississippi Free Press spoke with Blackwell, who described the meeting as amicable. “I thought it went well. “[The governor] was receptive, appreciative of the meeting. Hopefully we moved the bar a little bit closer to an agreement,” Blackwell said. “He was non-committal, so they’re going to think about what we said and get back with us.” Blackwell also shared that the proposed legislation currently sits at a four ounces per month, which Blackwell believes is a “reasonable” amount. “I took samples to show him what an ounce actually looks like—what 3.5 grams actually looks like.”

On Meta (formerly Facebook) on December 28, 2021, Reeves wrote that he would absolutely support a medical cannabis bill if it were “truly medical marijuana.” He argued that the amount a single patient can use per day exceeds what he believes should be allowed, according to the current bill proposal. “The bill allows any individual to get 3.5 grams of marijuana per day. A simple google search shows that the average joint has 0.32 grams of marijuana. Therefore any one individual can get enough weed to smoke 11 joints a day. Every day,” he wrote.

He also expressed his belief that it isn’t medical at all if there aren’t any doctors involved in the process. “Unlike any other drug, this program allows virtually unlimited access to marijuana once you qualify. There is no pharmacist involved and no doctor setting the amount. There is only what legislators call a ‘budtender’ serving you pot.” He concludes with a wish to reduce the “tremendous” amount of cannabis that the current bill text would allow. “I hope that legislative leaders will see fit to consider reducing the tremendous amount of weed they seek to make legally accessible so that I can sign their bill and we can put this issue to rest.”

Despite Reeves’ opposition, and threats of vetoing the bill if the possession limits don’t change, Blackwell is confident that the legislation has put together a comprehensive program for patients. “Lee Yancey’s been great. Speaker [Philip Gunn] and Jason White have been great. It has been an eye-opening experience to go through a bill of this nature. I don’t know if any bill has been vetted like this…with the transparency that’s occurred,” Blackwell stated.

The bill is in the hands of Lt. Gov. Hosemann at the moment, who will soon send the bill to the Public Health Committee. According to the Mississippi Free Press, Senator Hob Bryan has confirmed his support and that he will move it to the Senate floor for consideration, “as soon as is reasonably practical.”

Voters approved a medical cannabis program in 2020 through Initiative 65, although it was overturned by a Supreme Court decision in May 2021. As a result, state lawmakers set out to draft their own medical cannabis bill. The draft proposal was initially 144 pages, crafted in tandem between both House and Senate representatives. However, after being sent to the governor for changes, it increased to a 277-page document.

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Mississippi Governor Won’t Sign Medical Cannabis Bill Without Major Changes

Mississippi Governor Tate Reeves revealed on Tuesday that he will not sign a medical cannabis bill proposed by state lawmakers, saying the legislation allows patients access to too much medical cannabis. In a message posted to Facebook, the Republican governor wrote that he would support the measure if the legislature cuts the daily cap on medical marijuana purchases in half.

“I hope that legislative leaders will see fit to consider reducing the tremendous amount of weed they seek to make legally accessible so that I can sign their bill and we can put this issue to rest,” Reeves wrote.

Mississippi voters approved Initiative 65, a ballot measure to legalize the medicinal use of marijuana, in November 2020. However, in May, the Mississippi Supreme Court overturned the statute, citing constitutional inconsistencies in the state’s initiative process.

In September, negotiators with the Mississippi Senate and House of Representatives announced that they had reached an agreement on a medical cannabis plan that has key differences compared to Initiative 65, including provisions that would allow local jurisdictions to regulate where medical marijuana could be cultivated, processed and sold.

Reeves Rejects Cap On Cannabis Purchases in Mississippi

On Tuesday, Reeves said that the bill drafted by lawmakers addresses some of his worries about launching a medical marijuana program in Mississippi. But the governor added that he is still concerned with the question of how much cannabis a patient will be permitted to purchase.

“Unlike any other drug, this program allows virtually unlimited access to marijuana once you qualify. There is no pharmacist involved and no doctor setting the amount,” said Reeves. “There is only what legislators call a ‘budtender’ serving you pot.”

Reeves noted that under the legislature’s plan, patients would be allowed to purchase up to 3.5 grams of medical cannabis per day. Writing that a “simple google search shows that the average joint has 0.32 grams of marijuana,” Reeves said that each patient would be entitled to enough cannabis for 11 joints every day. The governor then offered patient statistics from Oklahoma, where about 376,000 patients have registered for the medical cannabis program.

“An equivalent sign-up rate in Mississippi would yield 300,000 Mississippians with a card to get up to 11 joints per day. That would allow the disbursement of 3.3 million joints per day in our state, which is the equivalent of approximately 100 million joints per month,” Reeves extrapolated. “That would be 1.2 billion legal joints sold in Mississippi per year. Call me crazy, but I just think that’s too broad of a starting point.”

Instead, Reeves suggested that lawmakers drastically cut the daily cap on medical cannabis purchases.

“I am asking the Legislature to simply cut that amount in half to start the program,” he wrote. “It is a simple fix.”

Reeves also suggested that the limit on medical cannabis could be revisited if the amended cap proves to be insufficient for patient needs. 

“We can sit down five years from now and take a thorough review of the actual outcomes,” the governor wrote. “But—as the dad of three daughters that I love dearly—I cannot put my name on a bill that puts that much marijuana on the streets of Mississippi.”

Lawmakers will take up the bill during the new legislative session, which begins early next month. Many cannabis activists are already frustrated with Reeves for failing to follow through on plans to call a special session to consider the matter.

“This program was supposed to have been up and running already,” Citizens Alliance of Mississippi founder Shea Dobson told reporters last month. “I mean, we were supposed to have had medical marijuana in place right now as we speak. And every day that goes by, the governor moves the goalposts; we continue to see patients suffer more.”

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Pair of Cops Booked After Being Caught Smoking Pot in Mississippi

According to a Flowood Police Department news release, which was posted on Facebook, two rookie police officers from the Jackson County Police Department in Mississippi were charged with possession of cannabis and paraphernalia after being caught smoking weed, in the act. The Clarion Ledger first reported the arrests of the two officers—both of whom just finished police academy.

Kenya Shardae McCarty and Darius Jamal Short were off-duty at the time, relaxing and puffing by a pond, minding their own business, when they were spotted and approached by officers from another division. 

Officers with the Flowood Police Department in Mississippi responded to reports of two people smoking weed at the Nature Trail Park at about 5:45 p.m. on December 17. Flowood’s Park Trail includes an elevated walkway—the perfect place to toke. 

Instead of letting the fellow cops off, the Flowood Police officers arrested and booked them. The two cops were charged with possession of cannabis and an open container violation, Flowood Police officials said, and they were given a court date for the charges. The officers were also in possession of two firearms, which is not unusual for an off-duty police officer.

“On December 17, 2021 officers were dispatched to the Nature Trail Park of Flowood in reference to individuals smoking marijuana,” the news release reads. “Officers arrived and located two subjects inside the park near the pond. The subjects were identified as Darius Jamal Short B/M and Kenya Shardae McCarty B/F. The officers located a small amount of marijuana on a bench where the two were seated. Officers also took possession of a firearm which was present on the table.”

The release continues, “A second firearm was also recovered along with open containers and marijuana paraphernalia. The subjects were transported to headquarters for booking on the charges of Possession of Marijuana and Open Container Violation. The subjects were given a court date for above charges. These two individuals are recent graduates of the Jackson Police Academy and are currently employed by the Jackson Police Department.”

Meanwhile—Flowood Police Department is being sued by a man who said they sicced a K9 on him three times, in a separate incident a few years ago. That case escalated to a $5 million federal lawsuit.

“Such a waste of resources,” the top comment on the Facebook post reads. “Legalize weed, let them go, and move on.”

Per Mississippi law, possession of 30 or less grams of cannabis is punishable by up to three years of imprisonment and a fine of up to $3,000.  

Instead of reprimanding them, Jackson Police Department Chief James Davis defended the behavior of his officers, explaining that they were off-duty at the time. Davis did not confirm whether the police officers were placed on administrative leave or are subject to any other type of punishment beyond the Flowood Police charges. “If an officer did something off duty, that’s their personal life,” he said

The maximum penalty for a first-time offender in possession of 30 grams or less of cannabis in Mississippi is a maximum $250 fine, Whitt Law Firm explains. Anything above 30 grams is a different story, however, and is elevated to a felony.

Possession of up to 250 grams is punishable by one to three years in jail and a $1,000 fine, while five kilograms or more of cannabis can result in a maximum penalty of 10 to 30 years in prison and a $1 million fine, according to the NORML (National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws).

Lots of cops are smoking or selling pot around the country, and occasionally they get caught. A Cincinnati police dispatcher in Ohio was one of six people arrested for hundreds of pounds of pot in 2017. The next year a patrol officer with the Paterson Police Department in New Jersey was caught selling pot and many other drugs to an undercover federal informant.

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Mississippi Governor Stalls Medical Cannabis Bill

There’s a standoff over medical cannabis in Mississippi, with the governor and state lawmakers still at odds over provisions in the proposed legislation.

It is up to Republican Governor Tate Reeves to call a special legislative session that is necessary to pass a bill that would implement a new medical marijuana law in the state––something Mississippi voters approved at the ballot last year. 

But Reeves has yet to give the green light to such a session, saying Monday that there are portions of the bill written by Mississippi legislators that he simply cannot get behind.

Mississippi Public Broadcasting reported that Reeves cited one part of the proposed bill that “forbid the Department of Public Safety from having a role in the state’s potential medical marijuana industry.”

“Clearly, I wasn’t going to agree to that, so we’ve made some necessary improvements to the bill, but we haven’t gotten to the point where I am comfortable yet in ensuring that we have a program that is truly ‘medical mariuana’ that has strict rules in place,” Reeves said, as quoted by Mississippi Public Broadcasting.

The outlet reported that Reeeves said he is “in talks with lawmakers about adding additional restrictions on how much marijuana someone can purchase if they do qualify for the program,” and that absent those restrictions, “the state may be closer to having a recreational marijuana industry,” something to which he is opposed. 

“If we’re going to have our true medical marijuana program with strict rules in place that ensures that those individual Mississippians who need medical marijuana can get it, but also doesn’t air on the side of opening access to any and everybody in the state, we’ve got to make some additional adjustments,” Reeves said. “And I’m hopeful that they will be able to do so.”

Reeves said the biggest disagreement between he and lawmakers deals with volume––both the amount of marijuana a patient can acquire, and the potency of the product.

“Really the one key piece left is with respect to how much marijuana can any one individual get at any one point in time and what is the THC content of that marijuana. And so, that’s really the last piece that we’re working on,” Reeves told reporters while attending an event hosted by the Mississippi Poultry Association, as reported by the website Y’all Politics.

Last year, nearly 70 percent of voters in Mississippi approved a ballot initiative that legalized medical marijuana for patients with a number of qualifying conditions, including cancer, epilepsy or other seizures, Parkinson’s disease, Huntington’s disease, muscular dystrophy and multiple sclerosis, among several others.

But the road to implementing the new law has been typified by delays and obstacles, most notably a decision by the state Supreme Court in May that ruled the initiative unconstitutional. 

Since then, Reeves and members of the state legislature have been negotiating a bill to replace the struck down initiative and still legalize medical cannabis treatment. But with the regular legislative session ending in the spring, passing the bill will necessitate a special session, which only Reeves has the authority to call.

In late September, Mississippi lawmakers reached a deal on a medical marijuana bill, which they expected would prompt the special session.

But Reeves has balked, continuing to raise concerns about the language of the bill. It is also raising concerns that the legislation will be punted to the next regular legislative session, which is scheduled to begin in January.

Last month, Reeves said he believed that he would eventually call a special session.

“I am confident we will have a special session of the Legislature if we get the specifics of a couple of items that are left outstanding,” Reeves said at the time. “Again, we have made great progress working with our legislative leaders.”

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Afroman Launches Tours in Mississippi and Oklahoma, With New Single on Cosmic Wire

Today Grammy Award-nominated artist Afroman announced tours in Mississippi and Oklahoma, and a new single to boot. Be on the lookout for Afroman Cannabis at dispensaries dispersed throughout Oklahoma.

Last year, Palmdale, California-based star Afroman appeared on the single “WHOLEthing” for his Cosmic Wire debut with BLAZAR. This year, the duo is back with the funk-driven track, “Step it UP” on Cosmic Wire. Jerad Finck aka BLAZAR is an electronic music producer currently signed to AntiFragile Music. BLAZAR produced Afroman, Daxsen and Corey Feldman, while working alongside production team members of the Pixies, U2, Collective Soul and Pink.

Afroman’s recent 2021 tour was appropriately named “This Ain’t No Joke, This Ain’t No Gimmick, I Got to Get Paid in the Middle of a Pandemic” Tour—sharing the frustrations of many Americans. He also recently released the music video for the single, “Cuz I’m High,” the official remix of his classic “Because I Got High” that brought the rapper Kid Lennon into the public eye, also featuring YHK Destin. 

Before rapping about smoking, Afroman was rapping about sagging. “The first tape I made was about my eighth-grade teacher,” Afroman said. “She got me kicked out of school for sagging my pants, which was a big deal back then. So I wrote this song about her and it sold about 400 copies: it was selling to teachers, students, just about everybody. And I realized that, even though I wasn’t at school, my song was at school, so in a way I was still there. All these people would come by my house just to give me comments about how cool they thought the song was.”

Afroman’s classic “Because I Got High” was a smash hit, and gained notoriety after its appearance on The Howard Stern Show and the Jay & Silent Bob soundtrack. Not long after, Afroman joined the lineup of Cypress Hill’s “Smoke Out” festival with the Deftones, Method Man and others, not to mention his gig headlining The Gathering of the Juggalos in 2010. 

Photo courtesy of Afroman.

He made numerous appearances at festivals like the Pacific Festival with Calvin Harris and Steve Aoki,  and the Snowball Music Festival 2014 alongside Pretty Lights, Griz, Rüfüs Du Sol, Busta Rhymes and J. Phlip. During 2018 Afroman shared the stage with Snoop Dogg and Bone Thugs ‘n’ Harmony on the notorious PUFF PUFF Pass tour, which also included legends such as E-40 and Warren G. Snoop Dogg is a frequent guest on Afroman tracks, and also frequently in the smoke circle.

Alongside the tours in Mississippi and Oklahoma, Afroman also is behind numerous strains and various other cannabis-related events and projects.

Afroman Cannabis is on the market, notably in dispensaries found throughout Oklahoma. In the past, Palmdale Purp is a cannabis strain brought to the market by Afroman. His strains Fro-G Kush and Blue Magic were released earlier. He also put his name behind a malt liquor beer  “Cold Fro T5.”

After launching Afroman Cannabis he will tour, beginning in Mississippi and Oklahoma, aka “Smokelahoma”.   

Afroman Tour Dates: 

  • 10/31: Martin’s – Jackson, MS 
  • 11/1: Harrison’s – Oxford, MS
  • 11/2: Dave’s Dark Horse – Starkville, MS
  • 11/3: Brewski’s – Hattiesburg, MS
  • 11/4: Locust Alley – Nanchez, MS
  • 11/5: Specator’s Pub -Greenville, MS
  • 11/6: Country Trails RV Park – Wikerson, MS
  • 11/15: Vice’s Nightclub – Reno, OK
  • 11/16: Red Brick Bar – Norman, OK
  • 11/17: Castle Row Studios – Del City, OK
  • 11/18: Platinum Nights – Oklahoma City, OK
  • 11/19: The Shrine – Tulsa, OK

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Mississippi ‘Not Quite Ready’ to Implement Medical Cannabis

Mississippi’s governor on Tuesday said he isn’t quite ready to call a special legislative session to implement the state’s new medical cannabis law

Tate Reeves, a first-term Republican, made it clear that he believes the special session will indeed happen––but not until a few outstanding matters are ironed out.

“I am confident we will have a special session of the Legislature if we get the specifics of a couple of items that are left outstanding,” Reeves said at a press conference, as quoted by Mississippi Today. “Again, we have made great progress working with our legislative leaders.”

Reeves’ announcement on Tuesday comes nearly three weeks after lawmakers in Mississippi had apparently struck a deal on legislation to implement the medical marijuana law. 

Mississippi Today reported at the time that “legislative negotiators and leaders” had come to an agreement on a draft of legislation for the new law, and that they “anticipated to ask” Reeves to call the legislature into a special session.”

As governor, Reeves has the lone authority to call a special legislative session. 

On Tuesday, Reeves outlined several areas of concern over the medical marijuana legislation. According to Mississippi Today, those concerns include the “level of THC dosages,” the “amount of marijuana that can be provided to people” and “who would be eligible to receive medical marijuana.”

The website noted that the governor’s “office has also been back and forth with lawmakers adding language to ensure that marijuana businesses cannot receive state economic development incentives or credits.”

The legislation that was drafted late last month by state lawmakers had “THC potency limits of 30 percent on flower, [and] 60 percent on concentrates and infused products,” while requiring “any product above 30 percent THC [to] have to have a warning label.” 

The bill also would impose the state’s seven percent sales tax on medical marijuana. 

Shutterstock

Mississippi Experiencing Frustrating Delays

Although Reeves maintained confidence that the special session would ultimately be held, the delay is likely another source of frustration for marijuana advocates in the state who have confronted significant hurdles since Mississippi voters approved medical cannabis at the ballot.

Last year, almost seven percent of voters in the state passed Initiative 65, which legalized medical cannabis treatment for patients suffering from a number of qualifying conditions, including cancer, epilepsy or other seizures, Parkinson’s disease, Huntington’s disease, muscular dystrophy, multiple sclerosis, cachexia (weakness and wasting due to chronic illness), post-traumatic stress disorder, HIV+, AIDS, chronic or debilitating pain, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis or ALS, glaucoma, agitation from dementia, Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, sickle-cell anemia and autism.

Under the passed ballot initiative, those qualifying patients could have as much as 2.5 ounces of medical pot.

But in May, the Mississippi Supreme Court struck down the initiative in a 6-3 ruling, declaring the measure unconstitutional on a technicality. 

The ruling prompted lawmakers in the state to prepare a new law to take the place of Initiative 65. Negotiations took place for much of the summer, with a draft finally being offered up to Reeves late last month.

That legislation barred personal cultivation for qualifying patients, while also including a provision permitting cities to opt out of the medical marijuana program.

“City councils or aldermen, or county boards of supervisors, within 90 days of passage of legislation, could opt out from allowing cultivation or dispensing of medical marijuana within their borders,” Mississippi Today reported at the time. Voters in those cities and counties could force a referendum to rejoin the medical marijuana program if they gathered 1,500 signatures or 20 percent of the voters, according to the report.

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Mississippi Lawmakers Move to Implement Medical Cannabis Legislation

After months of negotiating, lawmakers in Mississippi reached a deal this week to implement a new medical marijuana law in the state.

Mississippi Today reported that “legislative negotiators and leaders have agreed on a draft of medical marijuana legislation,” and that they are “anticipated to ask Governor Tate Reeves as early as Friday to call the Legislature into special session.”

The approach to Reeves could be significant, as the report noted that the first term Republican governor “has sole authority to call lawmakers into special session, and would set the date and parameters of a special session.”

“Although legislative leaders have expressed interest in dealing with COVID-19 and other issues in a special session, Reeves has appeared unwilling but said he would call a session for medical marijuana, pending lawmakers are in agreement and he agrees with the measure,” the report said. 

In May, Reeves said that a special session to address medical marijuana was “certainly a possibility.” 

For medical cannabis advocates and would-be patients of the treatment, the legislative wrangling has been a long, and at times frustrating, process.

Nearly 70 percent of Mississippi voters approved a ballot initiative last year that legalized medical marijuana for a host of qualifying conditions including cancer, epilepsy or other seizures, Parkinson’s disease, Huntington’s disease, muscular dystrophy, multiple sclerosis, cachexia (weakness and wasting due to chronic illness), post-traumatic stress disorder, HIV+, AIDS, chronic or debilitating pain, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS, glaucoma, agitation from dementia, Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, sickle-cell anemia and autism. 

Under Initiative 65, qualifying patients could legally possess up to 2.5 ounces of cannabis.

But the new law hit a major snag in May, when the state’s Supreme Court struck down Initiative 65 citing a strange and obscure provision in the state’s constitution. In the 6-3 ruling, the majority justices “ held the initiative had to be struck down because of an odd flaw in the state constitution’s voter initiative process,” NBC News reported at the time. 

“Passed in the 1990s, the measure called for a percentage of signatures to come from each of the state’s five congressional districts to get on the ballot,” NBC reported. “But, the judges noted, the state lost one of those congressional districts thanks to the 2000 U.S. Census, and now only has four districts.”

After that ruling, lawmakers in Mississippi went back to the drawing board to create a new medical marijuana program to supplant Initiative 65. 

Negotiations ran through the summer, with state lawmakers and other agencies hearing testimony from both advocates and opponents to medical cannabis. 

The breakthrough finally arrived on Thursday. Mississippi Today reported that some legislative leaders “released some details of the proposal—which had been kept close to the vest for months—such as that cities and counties will be allowed to ‘opt out’ of having medical marijuana cultivation or dispensaries, although local voters can override this.”

“City councils or aldermen, or county boards of supervisors, within 90 days of passage of legislation, could opt out from allowing cultivation or dispensing of medical marijuana within their borders,” the report explained. Voters in those cities and counties could force a referendum to rejoin the medical marijuana program if they gathered 1,500 signatures or 20 percent of the voters, according to the report.

Other notable provisions in the draft proposal include that smokable cannabis would be permitted, and that the state’s sales tax of seven percent would be imposed on medical marijuana. But the lawmakers have closed the door on personal cultivation, with Mississippi Today reporting that “outdoor growing would not be allowed, nor home growing.”

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