Medical cannabis is now legal in 37 states.
On Wednesday, February 2, Mississippi Governor Tate Reeves signed Senate Bill 2095, legalizing medical cannabis for qualified patients.
The new law, also known as the Mississippi Medical Cannabis Act, went into effect immediately, though it may be months before the first dispensary opens.
Under the new law, patients with cancer, Parkinson’s disease, glaucoma, or other chronic, terminal, or debilitating conditions can obtain a physician’s recommendation to use cannabis medicinally.
Marijuana Policy Project President Toi Hutchinson calls the new law a victory that will allow tens of thousands of patients in Mississippi to access something that will alleviate their pain and improve their quality of life.
“Mississippi now serves as the latest example that medical cannabis legalization is possible in any state in the country,” says Hutchinson. “We are hopeful that this move will add to the growing momentum towards cannabis policy reform in the South.”
The Road to Legalization
In November 2020, an overwhelming majority of Mississippi voters cast their ballots in favor of Initiative 65, amending the state constitution to permit medical cannabis use.
The voters favored a citizen-led initiative over a more restrictive measure drafted by legislators.
Following the vote, legislators challenged Mississippi’s voter initiative process.
Supreme Court Members decided that ballot measure signature requirements couldn’t be complied with and nullified the 2020 vote.
The decision also barred citizens from placing measures on the ballot in the future.
Southeast Legislative Manager for the Marijuana Policy Project Kevin Caldwell says Mississippians fought an uphill battle for the state medical cannabis program, despite having a lot of support.
“With this new law, justice has finally prevailed,” says Caldwell. “Patients in Mississippi who are seriously ill will no longer be subject to arrest and criminal penalties for using medical cannabis and instead will be met with compassion. We applaud the legislature for working to restore the will of the voters in one of the most conservative states in the nation and Governor Reeves for signing it into law.”
Medical Cannabis Use and Concerns
Under the new law, patients may obtain up to 3.5 grams of medical cannabis or one gram of concentrates every day and no more than three ounces of flower per month.
The law does not permit home growing.
The new law places a tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) limit on cannabis flowers at 30 percent and 60 percent for concentrates.
There is no limit to the number of dispensaries that may operate in Mississippi, and all medical cannabis purchases are subject to the state’s seven percent sales tax and an additional five percent excise tax.
NORML State Policies Manager Jax Jax James says cannabis access is long overdue in Mississippi, but noted, “The overwhelming majority of voters decided in favor of this policy change over a year ago, and for the past 14 months, the will of the people has been denied.
But while hailing the new law as a significant step forward for patients in Mississippi, James expressed concern about some of its provisions and omissions.
“We remain concerned that lawmakers saw fit to add unnecessary taxes on cannabis products, that patients are prohibited from home-cultivating limited amounts of cannabis for their own personal use,” says James. “And that those with chronic pain are restricted from accessing cannabis products until first using more dangerous and addictive substances like opioids.”
State regulators have 60 days from the new law’s enactment to begin issuing medical cannabis cards to qualifying patients.
Officials must also begin distributing licenses to dispensary operations within 150 days.