The fight for legal medical marijuana access continues in Mississippi. Just days after the start of the 2022 legislative session, Senate members voted 47-5 in favor of legislation legalizing medical marijuana, thus sending the bill to House members for further consideration.
[1/19/22 UPDATE: Late Wednesday, members of the House also overwhelmingly approved a slightly revised version of the bill. It now returns to the Senate for a concurrence vote. If re-approved, it would advance to the Governor’s desk.]
The Senate vote took place despite Republican Gov. Tate Reeves’s ongoing threats to veto the bill because he believes the measure doesn’t go far enough to limit how much patients’ may legally purchase and possess. Nonetheless, lawmakers are confident they have the support necessary to override a veto.
The Senate-approved bill, SB 2095: Mississippi Medical Cannabis Act, seeks to establish a program to allow qualified patients to purchase and possess cannabis and cannabis-infused products – a policy that is overwhelmingly supported by Mississippi voters.
On Election Day 2020, 73 percent of Mississippi voters decided in favor of Initiative 65, a comprehensive measure legalizing medical cannabis access. On the same ballot, voters rejected a far more restrictive medical marijuana proposal, Initiative 65A.
However, just prior to the vote, officials representing the city of Madison – including the town’s Republican Mayor – filed suit arguing that the legislature’s failure to update guidelines for petitioners should invalidate the I-65 vote as well as any future citizens’ initiatives. The state Supreme Court agreed, deciding 6 to 3 in May 2021 to nullify the Initiative 65 vote. The ruling also struck down citizens’ ability to coordinate future initiatives..
In response to the court’s decision, legislative leaders last fall requested Gov. Reeves to convene a special legislative session to address the issue. The Governor initially agreed that he would do so if and when leadership achieved consensus on the issue. He then reversed his position and refused to do so.
While the proposed Senate bill does not offer the broad range of protections provided by Initiative 65, its enactment will provide relief to tens of thousands of Mississippi patients.
NORML is encouraging further amendments to the bill, but believes that it represents a good faith effort on the part of lawmakers to restore many of the rights and liberties that Mississippians previously voted for on Election Day.