- D.H. Reilly
Mississippi Lawmakers May be Ready to Talk Medical Marijuana in August
Although the wait has felt interminable, the political tea leaves are once again saying it’ll soon be time to get a Mississippi Marijuana Card.
A State Senator and a Representative who are taking point on the issue of medical marijuana have had ongoing discussions about how to reconcile the two chambers’ differing visions of a medical marijuana market here, and both believe that the Legislature will soon be ready for a special session to pass a medical marijuana bill.
Also, a Senate committee last week held its third medical marijuana meeting in less than two months, further signaling that there may finally be action taken by lawmakers to undo the Mississippi Supreme Court’s on doing of Initiative 65.
We know we have been saying this for months, but it remains true: Progress is being made on medical marijuana in Mississippi.
Senate and House Members Negotiating a Medical Marijuana Bill
We’ve already told you how the state’s Supreme Court shocked pundits and journalists nationally when it overturned the state’s ballot initiative process, rendering twenty years of citizen-passed laws unconstitutional in one fell swoop. The law at the middle of that case was Initiative 65, the ballot initiative passed overwhelmingly by Mississippi voters last November.
Almost immediately, Governor Reeves said he would call a special session of the Legislature to pass medical marijuana legislation, but only after the two chambers had worked out a rough agreement on the law. “I can call them into a special session, and for $30,000 a day, they can sit around and talk and negotiate and determine what a medical marijuana plan can look like,” Reeves told the Northeast Mississippi Journal last month. “Or I can not call them in yet, and for $0 a day, they can talk and negotiate and develop a plan.”
Since then, negotiators from each chamber have met to discuss their respective visions for a law to replace Initiative 65, and the two legislators leading the effort think they’ll be ready for a special session in August.
Senator Kevin Blackwell, of Southaven, and Representative Lee Yancey, of Brandon, say they have had informal discussions, but plan this week to start negotiating in earnest.
“I hope to have a special session by mid-August. But, you know, I don’t call that,” Blackwell told the Associated Press. Yancey agreed that was a realistic goal, telling Mississippi Today, “I don’t see why not, as long as we come to an agreement soon.”
Governor Reeves seemed less optimistic on that date, telling WLBT, Jackson’s NBC affiliate, that “I think the August date is made up. No one that can sign the order to have a special session has thought about August, any particular date, but we are making progress and there is a lot of work going on.”
The governor could just be playing it cautiously optimistic when he dismisses the idea of a special session in August, or perhaps he’s concerned about some of the cracks that have begun to show in negotiations.
Both Sides Want Initiative 65 to be Their Guide, but…
Both Blackwell and Yancey say their respective sides of the Legislature want to model the new medical marijuana law on Initiative 65, but there is some difference of opinion on what that means.
“Our position is different from the Senate position, but there are similarities,” Yancey told Mississippi Today. “I think the House position is much closer to Initiative 65, that voters passed, than the Senate position.”
According to Mississippi Today, Blackwell said he intends “to honor the spirit of Initiative 65,” but is using for his starting point in crafting the legislation a bill that passed the Senate but died in the House last year. Critics of that bill said it was too strict and had prohibitively high licensing and regulation fees that would lock less-affluent entrepreneurs out of the marketplace.
“We are focused on the business end of this being a free-market approach,” Yancey said. “We don’t want to limit the number of licenses or anything like that.”
Yancey also conceded that there were differences in opinion over regulations and taxations on the House side, acknowledging that any agreement between the two chambers would also require there first being agreement within the chambers.
Senate Committee Meets July 21, 2021, for Third Marijuana Meeting in Less Than Two Months
Another sign of progress for medical marijuana legalization occurred in the state Senate this week, but just like the ongoing differences between House and Senate negotiators, this bit of progress was also marked by a reminder of just how far apart some lawmakers remain on the issue.
On July 21, the Senate Public Health and Welfare committee conducted a medical marijuana hearing, their third since June 3. The meeting “showed that there is plenty of real estate between those who are against any sort of program, supporters of a very limited program and those who want a more liberalized, free-market system or even a recreational one,” according to the Scott County Times.
According to the Mississippi Times, during the meeting Senators also clashed over questions about the severity of regulations, whether it should be permissible to smoke marijuana, and whether or not cities should be able to opt out of allowing dispensaries or other marijuana-related business.
Whether a Special Session Happens in August or Not, Medical Marijuana is Almost Certainly on the Way to Mississippi
Obviously, we cannot predict the future, or we would have warned you about the Supreme Court’s Initiative 65 ruling.
But it seems like an almost incontrovertible fact that medical marijuana is coming to Mississippi, for reasons we already pointed out when we told you that Senator Blackwell was predicting a mid-July special session: Mississippi voters overwhelmingly approved of Initiative 65, disapproved of the Supreme Court’s ruling, and support the passage of legislation that’s similar to the initiative they approved in November.
With an overwhelming majority of voters on the side of legalization, its opponents can only stave off the inevitable for so long.
Don’t Wait Any Longer Than You Have to For Relief
Although you’ll have to wait for the House and Senate to work out their negotiations before you can legally and safely enjoy the benefits of medical marijuana, you don’t have to wait any longer than that.
Reserve an evaluation with one of our doctors today, and we’ll schedule an appointment for you just as soon as Mississippi’s medical marijuana market is up and running. You’ll meet with your doctor virtually, in the comfort and safety of your own home, using your smartphone or computer for a telemedicine appointment. Not only that, but you’ll save $25 off the cost of your appointment!