The governor of Mississippi on Wednesday signed a bill to legalize medical marijuana, making the state the 37th to pass the policy change in the country.
The legislator approved the measure last week with solid margins, advancing reform more than a year after voters approved the legalization of medical cannabis on the ballot. This initiative was overturned by the State Supreme Court for procedural reasons, prompting the legislator to deal with it legislatively.
In a social media post, Governor Tate Reeves (right) said there was “no doubt that there are individuals in our state who could do much better if they had access to doses of cannabis prescribed by a doctor”. However, he reiterated his concerns that there are “also those who really want a recreational marijuana program that could lead to more people smoking and fewer people working, with all the societal and family ills that that entails.” leads”.
After the bill was approved by both houses and amended, lawmakers met as a conference committee to deliver a final product to Reeves, who had previously expressed concerns about the purchase limits included in the previous version of the measure –even going so far as to threaten with a veto.
Although recent changes to the law reduced the amount of cannabis patients can buy, the governor did not get the specific lower purchase threshold policy he was asking for. But he finally signed the law.
“I clarified that the bill on my desk is not the one I would have written,” he said Wednesday. “But it is a fact that the legislators who drafted the final version of the bill (the 45th or 46th draft) made significant improvements to get us to the ultimate goal.”
Reeves had five days after the legislature action, excluding Sunday, to sign it or return it with objections. If he took no action by Wednesday’s deadline, the bill would have become law without his signature.
“Because of these program enhancements … SB2095 will become law,” the governor said. “I thank all the legislators for their efforts on these improvements and all their hard work. I am so grateful to all of you: Mississippians who have made your voices heard.
My statement on the medical marijuana bill: pic.twitter.com/VTpXbfMv6C
— Tate Reeves (@tatereeves) February 2, 2022
“Now hopefully we can put this issue behind us and move on to other pressing issues facing our state,” he said.
Under the new law, dispensaries should be licensed in about six months, meaning Mississippi’s medical cannabis program could be up and running, at least in limited form, by the end of the year if all is going well.
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The law project, SB 2095draws heavily on provisions negotiated by lawmakers in the second half of last year, as legislative leaders prepared a bill for a special session scheduled for last summer that the governor never called. Proponents say the lengthy proposal represents a happy medium between the more permissive plan approved by voters and the narrower approach favored by Reeves and some lawmakers.
The measure will allow patients with about two dozen eligible medical conditions to purchase the equivalent of 3.5 grams of marijuana (or one gram of cannabis concentrate) per day, with a maximum monthly limit of three ounces.
Patients may be eligible for medical cannabis if they have been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, Huntington’s disease, muscular dystrophy, glaucoma, spastic quadriplegia, HIV, AIDS, hepatitis, Alzheimer’s, sickle cell anemia, Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, neuropathy, spinal cord disease or critical illness. injuries as well as chronic medical conditions or treatments that produce severe nausea, cachexia or weight loss, seizures, severe or persistent muscle spasms or chronic pain.
Other conditions may be added later by regulators via a petition. State-issued patient registration cards will cost $25, though some people may qualify for a lower price.
Patients or carers will be prohibited from growing their own cannabis under the new law. Products from state-licensed companies, meanwhile, will be limited to 30% THC for cannabis flower and 60% for concentrates.
Medical marijuana will be taxed at a wholesale rate of 5% and purchases will also be subject to state sales tax.
While smoking and vaping cannabis will be permitted for patients, both will be illegal in public and in motor vehicles. It will always be a crime for patients to drive under the influence.
The legislation would task the Mississippi Department of Health with overseeing the new industry and creating a nine-member advisory committee to make recommendations on issues such as patient access and industry safety.
Previous versions of the bill would have tasked the state Agriculture and Commerce Commission with regulatory duties, but the House removed the agency through an amendment. Commissioner Andy Gipson, who for months had pushed back against the plan, thanked lawmakers for bringing about the change.
Licensing of cannabis businesses other than dispensaries – including growers, processors, transporters, disposal entities, testing labs and research facilities – will begin within 120 days, the first licenses being issued about a month later. The dispensary licensing process will begin within 150 days, with the first licenses coming a month later.
In general, local governments cannot outright ban medical cannabis businesses or “render their operation impractical,” the bill says, but a separate provision allows local governments to opt out of the program entirely within 90 days. following its promulgation. In such cases, citizens could then request that the matter be put to a vote.
There will be no limit to the number of businesses allowed under the plan. However, cannabis businesses may need to obtain local permission to operate, and municipalities may enact zoning and land use restrictions.
The original Senate bill would have allowed growers and processors to be located only in areas of agricultural or industrial use, and the House later added an amendment to allow such businesses to locate in a commercial area as well. , but the Mississippi Municipal League postponed the change. A bicameral conference committee changed that, saying companies could only operate commercial areas if a waiver was granted by a local government.
Mississippi voters decisively approved a large legalization initiative in November 2020but the state Supreme Court struck down the measure on procedural grounds last May, simultaneously removing the entire state initiative process.
“Despite overwhelming support, Mississippians faced an uphill battle for a medical cannabis program,” Kevin Caldwell, Southeast Legislative Director of the Marijuana Policy Project, said in a press release. “With this new law, justice has finally prevailed. Patients in Mississippi who are critically ill will no longer face arrest and criminal penalties for using medical cannabis and will instead be met with compassion.
“We commend the legislature for working to restore the will of voters in one of the most conservative states in the nation and Governor Reeves for signing it into law,” he said.
For much of the past year, it appeared lawmakers were poised to pass a medical marijuana bill in a special legislative session, but the governor ultimately decided not to call the special session after reach a stalemate with lawmakers. Those who supported legalization said at the time that the blame for the failure lay with Reeves.
Later that month, Reeves dodged questions from patient advocates why he had not convened the extraordinary session. Then in late December, he said on social media that he had “repeatedly told members of the Legislative Assembly that I am ready to sign a bill that is really medical marijuana,” but pointed out that there should be ‘reasonable restrictions’.
A poll released in June found that a majority of Mississippi voters support legalizing marijuana for medical and recreational use, with 63% saying they want the legislature pass a bill that reflects the measure of the ballot which was overturned by the Supreme Court.