After more than a year of disagreement, back-and-forth and false dawns, Mississippi lawmakers may have finally produced a medical cannabis bill that will become law.
The Clarion Ledger reported that “members of the Mississippi House and Senate on Tuesday announced a final agreement on a bill to create a medical marijuana program in the state.”
Crucially, versions of the bill that passed out of both chambers did so with veto-proof majorities.
As expected, the central area of compromise centered “around how often and how much cannabis a medical marijuana patient can purchase,” according to the Clarion Ledger.
Under the bill that passed Tuesday, patients would be allowed “to purchase 3.5 grams of cannabis up to six times a week, or about 3 ounces a month,” the Clarion Ledger reported, which represents a “a decrease from the 3.5 ounces a month the Senate originally passed and the 5 ounces a month voters approved in November 2020.”
The purchasing limits represented the primary area of dispute between Mississippi lawmakers and the state’s Republican governor, Tate Reeves, who had said that his preference was for the limit to be set at 2.7 grams.
Reeves has threatened to veto a bill he deems unsatisfactory, but he may have been dealt a checkmate by members of the GOP-dominated legislature.
As Misssissippi Today explained, should the bill be passed on to Reeves, he “could sign the bill into law, veto it, or let it become law without his signature—a symbolic move governors sometimes do to show they disagree with a measure but will not block it.”
“I think the governor is going to sign it,” Ken Newburger, director of the Mississippi Medical Marijuana Association, told Mississippi Today, adding that the bill will provide patients with a “better quality of life” and that the program will serve as an economic boon for the state as well.
The announcement of the agreement came from the two lawmakers who have taken the lead on the effort to get medical cannabis over the line in Mississippi, who are state Senator Kevin Blackwell and state House Representative Lee Yancey, both Republicans.
“This has been a long journey,” Yancey said at a Tuesday press conference, as quoted by Mississippi Today. “It looks like we will finally be able to provide relief for the chronically ill patients who suffer so badly and need this alternative. I congratulate Sen. Blackwell—he’s carried this bill most of the way by himself.”
Yancey’s bill easily passed the state House last week, a week after the state Senate passed its own version, setting the stage for lawmakers from both chambers to negotiate a compromise.
An overwhelming majority of Mississippi voters approved a ballot initiative in 2020 to legalize medical cannabis, but that triumph quickly gave way to a long series of setbacks for advocates in the state.
The Mississippi Supreme Court struck down the ballot initiative last year, citing a technicality that rendered it in violation of the state constitution. The decision by the court prompted lawmakers to begin work on drafting a bill to replace the defunct law.
They offered up a bill in the fall, when the legislature was out of session, but Reeves continually balked at calling a special session.
“I am confident we will have a special session of the Legislature if we get the specifics of a couple of items that are left outstanding,” Reeves said at a press conference in October. “Again, we have made great progress working with our legislative leaders.”
Reeves was against the ballot initiative, but he said last year that he supports “the will of voters” and encouraged lawmakers to produce a bill to replace the one struck down by the Supreme Court.