Medical Marijuana bill passes senate bringing relief to supporters

The state senate voted overwhelmingly 47-5 on Thursday in favor of adopting medical marijuana.
Published: Jan. 13, 2022 at 10:26 PM CST
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JACKSON, Miss. (WLOX) - The Senate voted overwhelmingly 47-5 on Thursday in favor of adopting medical marijuana.

It’s a welcomed development for Ocean Springs resident Allie Byrd whose 5-year-old daughter suffers from epilepsy caused by a rare genetic brain disorder.

“She will definitely be a candidate for it 100%, so the quicker it gets passed the quicker we can start making arrangements on how much to give her and all those types of things,” said Byrd.

Despite getting enough support in the Senate to override a potential governor’s veto, the bill still needs to pass the House before becoming a reality. So the work goes on for medical marijuana advocate Shea Dobson.

“I think that’s even more of a reason to why we need to call our representatives and make sure they support it so whatever the governor wants to do we’ll be able to do this with or without him,” said Dobson.

The Senate version of the bill would allow 3.5 ounces of marijuana to be purchased a month with a prescription, that’s much more than Gov. Tate Reeves said he would support.

Speaker of the House Philip Gunn expects more details need to be ironed out.

“We’re going to be looking at it very closely,” Gunn said. “We’re going to try and understand all the ramifications of each provision and I’m sure there will be much discussion and debate moving forward as to how the final product will actually look like.”

Whenever it’s all settled can’t come soon enough for Byrd, who wants an alternative to her daughter’s long list of medicines.

“We’re now on our third behavioral medication to counteract all those seizure meds and it’s exhausting,” said Byrd.

Under the Senate bill, for patients to receive medical marijuana they must suffer from one of 22 conditions including cancer and epilepsy.

If signed into law, the Mississippi Medical Cannabis Act will:

  • Allows patients to receive up to 3.5 ounces of marijuana a month;
  • Allows people to receive medical marijuana for the 22 conditions listed in Initiative 65, such as cancer and epilepsy, and adds hepatitis, Alzheimer’s disease and spastic quadriplegia, as well as for chronic, debilitating pain;
  • Allows physicians, certified nurse practitioners, physician’s assistants and optometrists to certify patients for cannabis use;
  • Applies the state sales tax to retail sales of cannabis and a 5% excise tax for cultivation;
  • Allows the governing boards of cities or counties to opt out of allowing medical cannabis by a vote within 90 days of passage of the act. If they opt out, citizens can opt the city or county back in by referendum;
  • Will not prevent any employer from firing or refusing to hire someone who is using medical cannabis, or from having drug testing policies. Landlords are not required to allow medical cannabis production or use in rental property;
  • Prevents people losing custodial or visitation rights with their children for use of medical cannabis, and says users shall not be denied the right to purchase or possess a firearm;
  • Requires the Health Department to begin issuing cards to patients within 60 days of passage of the measure, and requires start of licensing of growers within 120 days and dispensaries within 150 days.

After the final passage of the bill, the State Department of Health will still need to create a plan for how to manage the medical cannabis program.

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