Mississippi: Lawmakers Advance Medical Cannabis Access Bill to Governor's Desk
January 27, 2022 (Investorideas.com Newswire) Jackson, MS: Members of the House and Senate have agreed upon legislation, Senate Bill 2095: The Mississippi Medical Cannabis Act, to establish a system of licensed dispensaries to provide medical cannabis to qualified patients.
Senate members initially approved the bill by a vote of 47 to 5. Senate members then approved an amended version of the bill by a vote of 104 to 14. Lawmakers on Wednesday approved a final version of the legislation in conference committee.
Commenting on the bill's progress, NORML State Policies Manager Jax James said: "This news is arguably bittersweet for Mississippi's patients. While these steps forward are a welcome development, they are also long overdue. The overwhelming majority of voters decided in favor of this policy change over a year ago, and for the past 14 months the will of the people has been denied as a result of the actions of the state Supreme Court and the Governor."
The bill now goes to the desk of Republican Gov. Tate Reeves, who has repeatedly threatened to veto the measure. However, the Act has ample support from lawmakers to override a veto.
The measure permits qualified patients to purchase up to 3.5 grams of cannabis flower or up to one gram of cannabis concentrate per day from licensed dispensaries. Patients will be limited to purchasing no more than three ounces of cannabis flower per month. Flower will be capped at 30 percent THC while concentrated products will be capped at 60 percent THC. The measure places no limit on the number of licensed dispensaries that may be operational at any one time. Cannabis purchases will be subject to the state's seven percent sales tax and an additional five percent excise tax.
In November 2020, Mississippi voters decided between two separate ballot measures that sought to legalize medical cannabis access – one promoted by local activists and another more restrictive measure placed on the ballot by lawmakers. Seventy-three percent of voters decided in favor of the citizens' initiative. However, Republican lawmakers later challenged the legitimacy of the state's voter initiative process. Members of the Supreme Court ultimately upheld that challenge – a decision that nullified the 2020 vote and also prohibits citizens from placing future measures on the ballot.
Following the Court's ruling, Governor Reeves promised to hold a special legislative session to revisit the issue. He then reneged on his pledge, citing objections over patients' proposed possession limits.
James added: "While this measure will undoubtedly provide relief to tens of thousands of Mississippians, we remain concerned that lawmakers saw fit to add unnecessary taxes on cannabis products, that patients are prohibited from home-cultivating limited amounts of cannabis for their own personal use, and that those with chronic pain are restricted from accessing cannabis products until first using more dangerous and addictive substances like opioids."
Once enacted into law, Mississippi will become the 37th state to regulate the possession and distribution of medical cannabis.
NORML advocates for changes in public policy so that the responsible possession and use of marijuana by adults is no longer subject to criminal penalties. NORML further advocates for a regulated commercial cannabis market so that activities involving the for-profit production and retail sale of cannabis and cannabis products are safe, transparent, consumer-friendly, and are subject to state and/or local licensure. Finally, NORML advocates for additional changes in legal and regulatory policies so that those who use marijuana responsibly no longer face either social stigma or workplace discrimination, and so that those with past criminal records for marijuana-related violations have the opportunity to have their records automatically expunged.
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