Despite Voter Approval, Mississippi’s Governor Remains Tentative On Legalizing Cannabis

Despite Voter Approval, Mississippi’s Governor Remains Tentative On Legalizing Cannabis

Mississippi’s first-term Republican governor, Tate Reeves, says he isn’t prepared to call a special legislative session to put through the state’s new medical cannabis law. The governor believes the special session will happen after a few outstanding matters are ironed out. Reeves has the sole authority to call a special legislative 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 a press conference.

Reeves’ announcement comes nearly three weeks after lawmakers in Mississippi had struck a deal on legislation to implement the medical marijuana law. As other states continue legalizing cannabis, calls for federal legalization increase, and legalized cannabis seems inevitable, Mississippi is still dragging its collective feet.

According to Mississippi Today, “legislative negotiators and leaders” had agreed on a draft of legislation for the new law and anticipated Reeves calling the legislature into a special session.”

Reeves has concerns over “who would be eligible to receive medical marijuana,” the “amount of marijuana that can be provided to people,” and the “level of THC dosages” in marijuana products.

State lawmakers drafted legislation late last month that specified “THC potency limits of 30 percent on flower, [and] 60 percent on concentrates and infused products,” and required “any product above 30 percent THC [to] have to have a warning label.” Mississippi’s seven percent sales tax would be imposed on medical marijuana. 

The governor’s office has been negotiating with lawmakers adding language to ensure “marijuana businesses can’t receive state economic development incentives or credits.” The delay is another source of frustration for Mississippi marijuana advocates who continue to confront significant hurdles since Mississippi voters approved medical cannabis.

Last year, Mississippi voters passed Initiative 65, legalizing as much as 2.5 ounces of medical pot for medical cannabis treatment for patients suffering from qualifying conditions, which include:  

  • Agitation from dementia
  • AIDS
  • Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis or ALS
  • Autism
  • Cachexia (weakness & wasting due to chronic illness)
  • Cancer
  • Chronic or debilitating pain
  • Crohn’s disease
  • Epilepsy or other seizures
  • Glaucoma
  • HIV+
  • Huntington’s disease
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Muscular dystrophy
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder
  • Sickle-cell anemia
  • Ulcerative colitis

In May 2021, the Mississippi Supreme Court declared the measure unconstitutional on a technicality and struck down the initiative in a 6-3 ruling.

Mississippi lawmakers have prepared a new law to take the place of Initiative 65. Negotiations lasted through much of the summer. State legislators finally offered up a draft to Reeves in late September. The new legislation bars personal cultivation for qualifying patients and permits cities to opt out of the medical marijuana program. If voters in those cities gathered 1,500 signatures or 20 percent of the voters, they could force a referendum to rejoin the state’s medical marijuana program.

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