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Mississippi Senate Votes To Legalize Medical Marijuana, Going Against Governor’s Law

February 18, 2022

The Senate of Mississippi voted on Thursday to legalize medical marijuana. The decision comes more than a year after voters approved the legalization of a ballot measure.  However, the action is likely to face opposition in the House, meaning the issue is far from settled.

If members of the Legislature approve it, this year may see a long-awaited bill finally become law. The legislation would also allow for a medical cannabis program to be implemented in the state soon after.

Although the bill has passed both houses of the state legislature, it is still in danger. Governor Tate Reeves (R) has threatened to veto it over its purchase limits, which he believes are too high. These limits are controversial because they are higher than what some state officials believe to be appropriate, making some state officials wary of the bill. But despite the opposition, supportive lawmakers are confident they’ll have the votes to override any veto and push the legislation through.

According to Senate majority leader Kevin Blackwell (R), the bill’s chief sponsor, the legislation will not be so stringent as to permit marijuana for recreational use. “The governor and others are wrong,” he said. “This bill will help patients get the medication they need.” “I suggest that if you think that, maybe you should take the time and read the bill because you’ll find that in it are many benefits for patients,” he concluded.

Senator Derrick Simmons of Baltimore submitted an amendment to reform Maryland‘s procedure for expunging cannabis charges. The amendment was more closely linked to the passage of SB 1264 than it was to the bill itself. This measure would allow a person to have a conviction deleted when they receive a medicinal marijuana card, rather than waiting for the current five-year period.

SB 2095 is the result of discussions in the second half of last year. This occurred at a time when lawmakers were preparing for a special session. It never took place. Patients with approximately two dozen particular medical ailments would be eligible for medical marijuana under a new measure that would require a doctor’s recommendation. Additional qualifications might be added as time goes on, and the card’s price will be fixed at $25.

The state legislature has finally adopted an altered bill to allow recreational marijuana. The new idea has reduced current tensions. The new account, according to proponents of legalization, is a compromise between the more permissive plan passed by nearly three-quarters of state voters and the Governor’s and some lawmakers’ desired restricted approach.

Supermajority support of three-fifths is required from both chambers to pass the bill.

Blackwell has stated that the bill only conservatively regulates medical cannabis. He made the statement during last night’s floor session where he criticized those who thought that legalizing medical cannabis would lead to uncontrolled use of recreational cannabis in Mississippi.

The Senate floor saw Blackwell bring hemp and a joint to demonstrate the unfairness of the federal law about purchasing limits. The significant difference between both, where one bag contained 3.5 grams of hemp while the other had an ounce, was enough proof to assert his claims.

As stipulated by the bill, one had to have any of the following conditions to qualify for medical cannabis: cancer, Parkinson’s, Huntington’s, muscular dystrophy, glaucoma, spastic quadriplegia, HIV, AIDS, Crohn’s, hepatitis, neuropathy, sickle-cell anemia, ulcerative colitis, spinal cord disease or severe injury as well as chronic medical conditions or treatments that produce severe nausea, seizures, cachexia or wasting, Alzheimer’s, severe or persistent muscle spasms or chronic pain.

The cannabis flower had a purchase limit to allow registered patients to consume no more than 3.5 grams of cannabis flower per day. Despite those limits being significantly low compared to other states that have legalized medical cannabis, Reeves still advocates that only half those amounts should be allowed within the program.

At Lastear, a draft version of the legislation allowed four ounces per month. However, this has been slightly reduced in the current measure to 3.5 ounces as the total monthly limit for patients.

The current measure also provides for regulations prohibiting patients or caretakers from growing personal cannabis alongside limiting products from state-licensed companies to 30 percent THC for cannabis flower and 60 percent for concentrates. Purchases of medical marijuana would be subject to state sales tax, and medical marijuana would be taxed at a wholesale rate of 5 percent.

Already existing legislation such as the prohibition of smoking and vaping cannabis in public and motor vehicles and the prohibition of driving by patients while under its influence remains unchanged.

The legislation would also see the  Mississippi Department of Health assisted by the state’s Department of Revenue and the Department of Agriculture and Commerce, charged with oversight functions of the new industry while enabling the establishment of a nine-member advisory committee for issues such as patient access and industry safety.

Expectations are high that come to the end of this year; the program can be fully in place, up and running. Licensing of cannabis businesses, including cultivators, processors, transporters, disposal entities, testing labs, and research facilities and dispensaries, should begin 120 days and 150 days, respectively, after the bill’s passage. However, the first licenses were issued a month after the bill was passed.

The bill places no limits on the allowed number of licensed businesses.

Local governments may also enact additional rules, such as requiring firms to obtain clearance from local authorities before operating, as well as imposing zoning and other restrictions.

This does not give power to local governments to ban medical cannabis businesses. If they want to, they have to wait 90 days after the bill is passed. If citizens wish to, they can petition to put this question to a vote.

Blackwell shot down several proposed amendments to the law at a committee hearing on Wednesday, but colleagues took several more to the Senate floor on Thursday.

Sen. Barbara Blackmon (D) reintroduced two failed committee amendments on the Senate floor on Thursday. Senators rejected the one that would allow outdoor cannabis cultivation. They ruled the other, which would express the state’s intent to advance the interests of historically underserved communities, including those “adversely affected by poverty and inequality,” as having no bearing on the cannabis bill.

Blackmon brought back the equity amendment during the floor session after making revisions focusing on cannabis licenses to ensure the amendment was germane. More than 40% of the state’s population is African-American. However, they only control 18% of the state’s GDP. Senators voted against the amendment.

Senator Derrick Simmons of Baltimore introduced a bill that would change how marijuana charges are dealt with in Maryland. The amendment was more closely linked to SB 1264’s passage than the measure itself. This bill would allow someone to have a conviction expunged immediately after getting a medicinal marijuana card, rather than waiting the current five-year period required by law.

Blackwell said he agreed with the concept but advocated for a no vote because the method was wrong. Simmons should present the proposal as a stand-alone law, according to him, so that it can be thoroughly thought through and introduced.

Lawmakers proposed an amendment that would have made it easier for residents in areas where medical marijuana is not permitted to vote on the subject.

Senator Angela Burks Hill, a Republican from Ohio, has presented a bill that would limit the Ohio Medical Cannabis Control Program. The bill would make it illegal to smoke medical marijuana, but it would be legal to consume it in non-smokable forms such as oils or edibles. It would also impose rigorous dosage and potency limits.

A patient would have to be deemed terminally ill by a doctor before receiving a cannabis prescription, and the THC content must be under 3%.  A dispensary is out of the question, considering you’ll only receive your medicine from a specialized pharmacy. The amendment would have also allowed universities to participate in the cultivation process and use the marijuana plants cultivated there. This is important because universities have access to labs, equipment, and facilities to make the marijuana-growing process more effective and efficient.

Hill proposed a different bill than the body initially voted on. This new bill is for a medical marijuana program, not smoking and candies and brownies passed off as medical.

Senator Blackwell was “overwhelmed” by the amendment and didn’t respond. His medical cannabis program had given him a reason to come back, and now he was being asked to abandon the program that gave him purpose by voting for Senator Hill’s amendment.

The legislators vetoed the amendment on a 6–40 vote.

Senator Blackwell fixed a mistake in a Senate bill that made an amendment pass.

Last year, lawmakers were set to pass a bill to legalize medical cannabis. However, the governor vetoed the bill. Supporters of the bill said that it was the governor’s responsibility to call for an additional session to resolve the deadlock.

Representative Lee Yancey (R) said that the House has been working on the bill for a long time. He is one of the many members of the House who have been working with Blackwell to pass the bill. Yancey said, “There would be an overwhelming number in the House and Senate ready to give this, and we have a majority of citizens in Mississippi who voted for us to pass this.”

Any delay concerning the bill being delayed is a result of her negligence.

Reeves has been dodging questions about why he’s failed to call the special session all month.

The governor said on social media in late December that he is willing to sign a medical marijuana bill that has reasonable restrictions.

He argued that this system would lead to 1.2 billion legal joints by doing back-of-the-envelope math.

Governor Reeves said he would veto the bill if it had possession limits. Chairman Wiggins of Senate Judiciary Committee Division A said that legislators might override the governor if he were to veto the bill.

Governor Reeves has worked with me on many different issues. I hope he doesn’t veto the legislature’s work to implement Initiative 65. Initiative 65 received the most votes in the September election, and legislators have worked hard over the summer to find a compromise that everyone can agree on.

Blackwell tried to point to the governor about purchase limits last week when he brought hemp to Reeves’s office to give an idea of the amounts allowed under the bill. “I took an ounce of marijuana to show him what it looks like,” he said.

In an interview with the Mississippi Free Press, Blackwell acknowledged that the two sides had come to a mutual understanding on critical issues but that they could not compromise on others. Blackwell said, “Hopefully, we moved the bar a little bit closer to an agreement.” He went on to say that his client was non-committal but that he would stay in touch with them before the week ran out.

In the latest poll by Mississippi State University, most Mississippians expressed support for legalizing marijuana for medical and recreational use. The poll found that 63 percent of Mississippians would like their representatives to pass a bill that mirrors the ballot measure legalized by voters during the election.