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Mississippi Lawmakers Finally Agree on Medical Cannabis Bill

Mississippi lawmakers have produced what may be the final medical cannabis law after nearly a year’s worth of back-and-forth, false dawns and disagreements.

Clarion Ledger reported that “members of the Mississippi House and Senate on Tuesday announced a final agreement on a bill to create a medical marijuana program in the state.”

Importantly, both versions of the bill passed with veto-proof majority. 

As expected, the central area of compromise centered “around how often and how much cannabis a medical marijuana patient can purchase,” according to the Clarion Ledger.

Under the bill that passed Tuesday, patients would be allowed “to purchase 3.5 grams of cannabis up to six times a week, or about 3 ounces a month,” the Clarion Ledger reported, which represents a “a decrease from the 3.5 ounces a month the Senate originally passed and the 5 ounces a month voters approved in November 2020.”

The purchasing limits represented the primary area of dispute between Mississippi lawmakers and the state’s Republican governor, Tate Reeves, who had said that his preference was for the limit to be set at 2.7 grams.

Reeves had threatened to veto any bill he found unsatisfactory but may have been stopped by the GOP-dominated legislature.

As Mississippi Today explained, should the bill be passed on to Reeves, he “could sign the bill into law, veto it, or let it become law without his signature—a symbolic move governors sometimes do to show they disagree with a measure but will not block it.”

“I think the governor is going to sign it,” Ken Newburger, director of the Mississippi Medical Marijuana Association, told Mississippi Today, adding that the bill will provide patients with a “better quality of life” and that the program will serve as an economic boon for the state as well.

Two lawmakers, Lee Yancey (both a Republican) and Kevin Blackwell, state senator, announced the signing of the agreement. They are both Republicans.

“This has been a long journey,” Yancey said at a Tuesday press conference, as quoted byMississippi Today. “It looks like we will finally be able to provide relief for the chronically ill patients who suffer so badly and need this alternative. I congratulate Sen. Blackwell—he’s carried this bill most of the way by himself.”

Yancey’s bill easily passed the state House last week, a week after the state Senate passed its own version, setting the stage for lawmakers from both chambers to negotiate a compromise.

Although a majority of Mississippi voters voted in favor of a 2020 ballot initiative for legalizing medical cannabis, it quickly fell apart and was followed by a string of disappointments for supporters.

Mississippi’s Supreme Court rejected the initiative for balloting last year. It cited a technicality which made it illegal under the state constitution. After the decision of the court, lawmakers began to draft a bill that would replace the old law. 

The legislature had been out of session in the fall when they proposed a bill. However, Reeves refused repeatedly to convene a special 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 in October. “Again, we have made great progress working with our legislative leaders.”

Reeves was against the ballot initiative, but he said last year that he supports “the will of voters” and encouraged lawmakers to produce a bill to replace the one struck down by the Supreme Court.