Medical cannabis is officially, finally, legal in Mississippi.
The state’s Republican governor, Tate Reeves, signed legislation on Wednesday that will allow qualifying patients to receive the treatment, ending a long and drawn-out struggle that dates back to the 2020 election, when a huge majority of Mississippi voters passed a ballot initiative.
“The ‘medical marijuana bill’ has consumed an enormous amount of space on the front pages of the legacy media outlets across Mississippi over the last three-plus years,” Reeves said in a statement that he posted on Twitter.
“There is no doubt that there are individuals in our state who could do significantly better if they had access to medically prescribed doses of cannabis. There are also those who really want a recreational marijuana program that could lead to more people smoking and less people working, with all of the societal and family ills that that brings.”
After voters approved the initiative to legalize medical cannabis in 2020, it didn’t take long for the measure to unravel. The state Supreme Court struck it down last year, ruling that the initiative was unconstitutional based on a technicality.
Ever since then, Reeves and lawmakers have been engaged in a back-and-forth surrounding a legislation to replace the one nullified by the court. Despite being opposed to the initiative, Reeves said that he would honor “the will of voters.” But getting a bill on his desk proved to be difficult.
In the fall, Mississippi legislators produced a bill, but Reeves did not call a special session, citing objections with the legislation as it was drawn up.
“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 in October. “Again, we have made great progress working with our legislative leaders.”
The chief dispute between Reeves and lawmakers centered around the amount of cannabis a patient could purchase. Reeves had said he wanted the limit to be set at 2.7 grams per day.
Last week, members of the Mississippi state House and Senate finally reached an agreement on a bill that will allow qualifying patients to purchase up to 3.5 grams as many as six times per week.
The bill passed the legislature with a veto-proof majority.
“I have made it clear that the bill on my desk is not the one that I would have written,” Reeves said in his statement on Wednesday. “But it is a fact that the legislators who wrote the final version of the bill (the 45th or 46th draft) made significant improvements to get us towards accomplishing the ultimate goal.”
Reeves went on to rattle off a host of changes made to the final bill that he said marked improvements to the law.
“1. Reduces the total amount that any one individual can receive to 3 oz. per month. This one change will reduce the total amount by 40 percent from the original version (I asked for 50 percent). Said differently, there will be hundreds of millions of fewer joints on the streets because of this improvement,” Reeves said in his statement.
“2. The medical professional can only prescribe within the scope of his/her practice. And they have to have a relationship with the patient. And it requires an in-person visit by the patient to the medical professional.
“3. Only an MD or DO can prescribe for kids under 18 and only with the consent of a parent/legal guardian. 4. An MD or DO must prescribe for young adults between the ages of 18-25. 5. The MSDH will promulgate rules regarding packaging and advertising, and I have confidence they will do so in a way that limits the impact on our young people. 6. Prohibits any incentives for the Industry from the Mississippi Development Authority. 7. Protects our churches and schools from having a marijuana dispensary within fewer than 1,000 feet of their location.”
“I thank all of the legislators for their efforts on these improvements and all of their hard work. I am most grateful to all of you: Mississippians who made your voice heard,” he added. “Now, hopefully, we can put this issue behind us and move on to other pressing matters facing our state.”