- D.H. Reilly
Mississippi Medical Marijuana Made Progress in 2021, and 2022 Looks Even Better!
For the innumerable Hospitality State residents who’ve been waiting to get a Mississippi Marijuana Card, what a long strange year it’s been.
2021 started out with such promise, as Mississippi voters had overwhelmingly passed a voter initiative in November of 2020 to create a medical marijuana market here. By the end of the year, however, that market had been ripped away from us by the state Supreme Court, and our governor had blocked a replacement effort put forth by the legislature.
If you only look at only those broad details, it can seem like 2021 was a devastating blow to the cause of medical marijuana in the Hospitality State, but the fact of the matter is that we made real progress on the issue this past year, and there is a lot to be optimistic about when it comes to 2022.
Supreme Court Takes Away Medical Marijuana and Democracy on a Technicality
The first big story about medical marijuana and Mississippi came in May, when the Court voided Initiative 65, the medical marijuana bill that voters overwhelmingly passed in November.
Making this setback even more disheartening was the fact that the Court’s ruling was not based on some unconstitutionality in the initiative itself, but on a technicality in the voter initiative process.
Because language in the state Constitution’s description of the initiative process was crafted when the state had five congressional districts, and because that language was never updated when we lost a district after the 2000 Census, the Court ruled that the initiative process was now unconstitutional, and that all laws passed via initiative since the loss of that fifth district were now invalid.
As this decision left Mississippians without a means to directly affect state laws, critics pointed out how undemocratic the ruling was. One of those critics was Governor Tate Reeves, who almost immediately called upon the legislature to negotiate a replacement medical marijuana bill, saying he would then call a special session of the legislature to pass it.
By the end of the year, however, Reeves’ story had changed, and he refused to call a special session to pass the bill the legislature had crafted. After months of calling upon lawmakers to pass a bill that reflected the will of the voters, and after months of silence over what he wanted that bill to look like, the governor finally admitted that he thought the bill permitted patients to consume too much marijuana.
That excuse for not calling a special session rang false with some lawmakers, however, because the amount of marijuana allowed by the proposed law was actually less than the amount the voters had approved in Initiative 65.
It was almost as though the governor had been opposed to medical marijuana all along, and was just playing political games with suffering patients seeking relief.
Legislature Protects State from Unregulated Delta-8 THC
Here’s something you won’t hear us say often: The legislature took steps to reaffirm the prohibition of a form of marijuana, and we think that’s a good thing. Of course what makes it a good thing is that the legislature was reaffirming the ban on an unregulated, potentially dangerous form of marijuana, not the safe, scrupulously monitored product we’ll have once Mississippi has a medical cannabis program.
Delta-8 THC is a synthetic form of the delta-9 THC that occurs naturally in cannabis. Delta-8 is created by chemically altering hemp, and because hemp is legal, products derived from hemp are technically legal too, at least at the federal level.
The Mississippi Hemp Cultivation Act, passed in 2020, explicitly banned delta-8, adding it to the state’s list of Section I controlled substances, drugs the state regards as being without medical value and as having a high potential for abuse. In March of 2021, the legislature passed House Bill 1034, reaffirming delta-8’s Section I status.
So why is that a good thing? Because thanks to the synthetic drug’s lack of other regulations, delta-8 products tend to be a crapshoot, with shady, fly-by-night producers selling products with mystery contents.
For example, in Minnesota, where delta-8 is legal, a news report found that delta-8 products were often mislabeled. Local experts there urged consumers to stick to the proven benefits and strict regulations of medical marijuana.
According to Bloomberg News, The U.S. Cannabis Council tested 16 delta-8 products acquired from retailers from all around the country. They found that only one of those products had a THC level within legal limits, and that on average they had more than 10 times the THC allowed by law.
That may seem like a plus to some people, but the point here isn’t how much THC customers are getting, it’s that customers aren’t getting what labels tell them they’re getting. If you’re getting THC you didn’t know about, what else are you taking into your body unknowingly?
When the U.S. Cannabis Council, a trade group for medical and adult-use marijuana companies, examined several delta-8 products in 2021, they concluded that the lack of regulation for delta-8 products “presents a public health risk” because of the illegal THC levels in 15 of the 16 products they analyzed, as well as the heavy metals they found in several of the products.
Experts Say Medical Marijuana Would be Good for Mississippi Economy, Brain Drain
As attention turned to the medical marijuana controversy here in 2021, experts reaffirmed some of the benefits to the state that legalization could bring.
In July, Jessica Rice, the executive director of the Mississippi Cannabis Trade Association (MCMA) spoke to the political podcast, Mississippi Today’s The Other Side.
Rice used Oklahoma as a point of comparison to Mississippi, because of our similar population sizes and demographics, noting that Oklahoma “generated $127 million in cannabis state and local taxes in 2020,” and suggested that Mississippi would be able to expect something similar once a medical marijuana law was in effect here. ”
The Tax Foundation, a Washington, D.C.-based think tank that generally opposes new and higher taxes, gave a more conservative estimate in 2021 as to the kind of tax revenue Mississippi would stand to gain with legalization. The foundation projected that after three years of operation, a legalized marijuana market would generate more than $47 million annually for Mississippi.
While these weren’t apples-to-oranges projections - The Tax Foundation was considering the potential for an adult-use market, not a medical one - and they vary widely, the point remains that leaving medical marijuana out of the hands of those who need it also leaves a massive amount of money on the table for our entire state.
Medical Marijuana Could Help Mississippi’s “Brain Drain”
Mississippi was one of only three states that lost population in the 2020 Census, making it the exception in the South, which overall led the U.S. with a more than 10% gain in population.
And while there may be many reasons for Mississippi’s population woes, most experts and laypeople seem to agree that much of the blame lies with the so-called Brain Drain, the exodus of skilled young people who take their college degrees and move to states that offer more high-paying tech jobs and more desirable (to young people, anyway) population centers.
But Rice said that the MCMA sees evidence that the creation of a medical marijuana market here could contribute to reversing that trend.
According to Rice, the MCMA has “a large subset of [members] who are from Mississippi who may live in other states or other parts of the country and want to come back and to get into the business. And I think that’s been great, you know that’s something that Mississippi really needs, you know, with our brain drain issues and just losing population, anything that’s going to attract people to the state or even back to the state, I think is awesome.”
And of course those returning entrepreneurs would then mean more economic activity in the state and more tax revenue in the coffers.
Lawmakers Vow that Medical Marijuana Will Top Their Agenda in 2022
As last year wound down, we got some good news regarding the year ahead.
The Sun Herald reported that a delegation of state lawmakers spoke to a meeting of the Mississippi Gulf Coast Chamber of Commerce on November 30, and told the audience that they plan to make the medical marijuana bill the first bill passed in the 2022 legislative session, which begins January 4.
When it was pointed out that Governor Reeves could veto the bill, Senator Brice Wiggins, a Republican representing Pascagoula, told the Sun Herald, “I certainly hope he doesn’t, because 75% of the people voted for it, or a version of it.”
Reasons to be Optimistic About Medical Marijuana in Mississippi Still Plentiful
And while the Supreme Court overturned the will of the voters in 2021, and Governor Reeves turned his back on them and his word, there is still plenty to be optimistic about as 2022 gets started.
First, medical marijuana is overwhelmingly popular here. The voters passed it easily, and Supreme Court justices and governors can’t continue to ignore the will of voters, or they’ll be replaced by people who respect that will. Further, as medical marijuana laws proliferate (thirty-six states now have programs), the pressure will only increase on Mississippi politicians to get with the times.
Finally, legalization rumblings have reached the federal level, meaning those who would stand in the way of progress may soon find that the road to medical marijuana bypasses them completely.
With all of that in medical marijuana’s favor, 2022 is looking bright.
Begin the New Year by Beginning Your Medical Marijuana Journey
While we have to wait to see exactly what 2022 will bring, you don’t have to wait to get started on your medical marijuana journey.
Reserve a Mississippi medical marijuana evaluation online today, and we’ll book an appointment for you with one of our doctors just as soon as Mississippi’s medical marijuana market is up and running.
You’ll meet with your doctor virtually, using your smartphone or computer for a telemedicine appointment. You’ll learn if you qualify for a Mississippi Marijuana Card and how cannabis might help you, without even leaving your home. You’ll even save $25 off the cost of the evaluation!
Doctors Who Care.
Relief You Can Trust.
Helping you find health and wellness through safe and convenient access to medical marijuana is our primary goal at Mississippi Marijuana Card. We’re working hard to educate advocates and cynics alike about the unique benefits medical cannabis can offer, building an accessible informational library of all things Mississippi and medical marijuana in the process.
If you have any questions, we’re ready to answer them. Call us at (833) 781-6635, or simply reserve a medical marijuana evaluation today!