Mississippi’s fledgling medical cannabis program is slowly but surely coming together, with state officials targeting early next year for the opening of the first dispensaries.
Local news station WLBT reports that “900 Mississippians have already applied and been certified for their medical marijuana cards,” and that there is hope for the first dispensaries to open their doors early next year.
The state began accepting applications for medical cannabis cards in June.
Mississippi legalized a medical cannabis program earlier this year after the state’s Republican governor, Tate Reeves, signed a bill into law.
“The ‘medical marijuana bill’ has consumed an enormous amount of space on the front pages of the legacy media outlets across Mississippi over the last three-plus years,” Reeves said in a statement following the bill signing. “There is no doubt that there are individuals in our state who could do significantly better if they had access to medically prescribed doses of cannabis. There are also those who really want a recreational marijuana program that could lead to more people smoking and less people working, with all of the societal and family ills that that brings.”
The governor’s signature marked the culmination of a multi-year legislative process after voters in the state approved a ballot measure in 2020 to legalize medical marijuana treatment there.
The state Supreme Court struck down the voter-approved measure, deeming it unconstitutional on a technicality, prompting lawmakers in Mississippi to draft their own medical cannabis proposal.
Reeves, who was opposed to the 2020 ballot measure, engaged with the legislature on the bill, at one point insisting that lawmakers impose a limit for patients to receive 2.7 grams per day.
The legislation that arrived on his desk earlier this year, however, allowed patients to purchase up to 3.5 grams as many as six times per week. It passed the legislature with a veto-proof majority.
“I have made it clear that the bill on my desk is not the one that I would have written,” Reeves said in his statement at the time. “But it is a fact that the legislators who wrote the final version of the bill (the 45th or 46th draft) made significant improvements to get us towards accomplishing the ultimate goal.”
The governor did, however, applaud a number of provisions in the new law.
“1. Reduces the total amount that any one individual can receive to 3 oz. per month. This one change will reduce the total amount by 40 percent from the original version (I asked for 50 percent). Said differently, there will be hundreds of millions of fewer joints on the streets because of this improvement,” Reeves said at the time. “2. The medical professional can only prescribe within the scope of his/her practice. And they have to have a relationship with the patient. And it requires an in-person visit by the patient to the medical professional. 3. Only an MD or DO can prescribe for kids under 18 and only with the consent of a parent/legal guardian. 4. An MD or DO must prescribe for young adults between the ages of 18-25. 5. The MSDH will promulgate rules regarding packaging and advertising, and I have confidence they will do so in a way that limits the impact on our young people. 6. Prohibits any incentives for the Industry from the Mississippi Development Authority. 7. Protects our churches and schools from having a marijuana dispensary within fewer than 1,000 feet of their location.”
Reeves thanked the lawmakers for their efforts, and expressed hope that “we can put this issue behind us and move on to other pressing matters facing our state.”