Mississippi becomes the 37th state to legalize medical marijuana

JACKSON, Mississippi — Mississippi is legalizing medical marijuana for people with debilitating diseases such as cancer, AIDS and sickle cell disease.

Republican Gov. Tate Reeves signed the legislation Wednesday and it became law immediately. It could be months before the first marijuana dispensaries open.

“There is no doubt that there are individuals in our state who could do much better if they had access to medically prescribed doses of cannabis,” Reeves wrote in a statement posted to Twitter. “There are also those who really want a recreational marijuana program that could get more people to smoke and fewer people to work, with all the societal and family ills that entails.”

The National Conference of State Legislatures reports that 36 states and four territories have already authorized the medical use of cannabis. Mississippi becomes the 37th state.

“For anyone who is touched in some way by a loved one or someone they know who benefits from medical cannabis, it gives them back a quality of life,” said Ken Newburger, Director executive of the Mississippi Medical Marijuana Association, a group that pushed for legalization.

A majority of Mississippi voters approved a medical marijuana initiative in November 2020, and it would have allowed people to buy up to 5 ounces per month. The state Supreme Court struck down it six months later, ruling that the state initiative process was outdated and that the measure had not been properly entered on the ballot.

The Republican-controlled State House and Senate passed the final version of Senate Bill 2095 last week.

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The new law will allow patients to purchase up to 3.5 grams of cannabis per day, up to six days a week. That’s about 3 ounces per month. It sets taxes on the production and sale of cannabis and specifies that plants must be grown indoors under controlled conditions.

Reeves said that due to the reduction from 5 ounces per month in the initiative to 3 ounces per month in the new law, “there will be hundreds of millions fewer joints on the streets because of this improvement” .

The new law prohibits the state from providing economic development incentives for the cannabis industry. The state often grants tax breaks and financial assistance for roads or water access to industrial sites.

The law gives cities and counties 90 days to refuse to license medical marijuana facilities, for cultivation or sale. But residents of those communities could call for an election to overrule the decisions of local officials and authorize them.

Clint Patterson is managing director of Mockingbird Cannabis, which plans to operate in the state. He said cannabis products can relieve pain and suffering.

“We look forward to serving the citizens of Mississippi as they seek to improve their health and quality of life through responsible cannabis use,” Patterson said in a statement.

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