The Mississippi Senate advanced a medical cannabis bill on Thursday, sending it to the House. Gov. Tate Reeves has indicated lukewarm support for a pared down, more restrictive version.
The Senate voted 47-5 after more than three hours of discussion on SB 2095, or, as sponsor Sen. Kevin Blackwell called it the “44th or 45th” iteration of the bill to legalize medical cannabis.
Earlier this week, the Senate Public Health and Welfare Committee advanced the bill despite Reeves’ concern that the possession limit – 3.5 grams a day – would lead to the sales of more than a “billion legal joints” in Mississippi, and that the bill was “too broad of a starting point.”
“Unlike any other drug, this program allows virtually unlimited access to marijuana once you qualify. There is no pharmacist involved and no doctor setting the amount. There is only what legislators call a ‘budtender’ serving you pot,” Reeves wrote on Facebook on December 28.
On December 30, Reeves wrote, “We’ve been blessed with tremendous outreach from legislators and even industry leaders who are willing to address these concerns,” adding that one solution for the Mississippi patients who might need more cannabis is to make patient-by-patient exceptions.
“I have always said I will sign a bill that is truly medical, not one that is recreational. That is one way to address my primary concerns (I am open to other suggestions!) and we can get this done ASAP!”
The version passed out of the Senate would legalize medical cannabis for Mississippi residents with a wide range of medical conditions, from seizures, cancer, glaucoma, and ulcerative colitis to those like severe nausea and chronic pain.
It’s a bill that reflects months-long negotiations that took place last year, as Cannabis Wire reported. Lawmakers presented Reeves with the bill in September, expecting a special session, but Reeves never called one. Work on the bill began before the state Supreme Court decided in May to overturn Initiative 65, a medical cannabis legalization measure passed by voters in November 2020.
Thursday’s Senate debate kicked off with Blackwell’s recitation of the lyrics to a Bob Dylan song: “Then they’ll stone ya when you’re there all alone. But I would not feel so all alone. Everybody must get stoned.” The debate on SB 2095 continued with extensive discussion over combustible cannabis, gun rights, taxation, outdoor cultivation, and whether Mississippi should join the majority of states that have medical cannabis programs.
The cannabis joint concerns were so great, that on Thursday, Senate lawmakers passed around a hemp joint and two bags of dried flower to physically show amounts.
Blackwell, sponsor of the bill, brought the conversation back to patients at the end of the three-hour discussion.
“We’ve talked about a lot of things, but we really didn’t talk about the people that we’re doing this for. There are a lot of sick, sick folks out there, that this is going to benefit,” Blackwell said. “And as I mentioned before, we’re going to be tweaking this every year. I think this is a step in the right direction. And there have been a lot of people waiting a long time for us to do this.”
Blackwell continued, “There’s a lot of work that went into this bill,” thanking co-sponsor Rep. Lee Yancey, and House leaders who also worked on the legislation.