On Wednesday, there was bitter disagreement among Mississippi lawmakers over the rules for the state’s upcoming medical marijuana program. This resulted in the death of a law in the House of Representatives and a maneuver by the Senate to reintroduce legislative language in another law.
Republican Senator Kevin Blackwell, who drafted Senate Bill 2765 (The Mississippi Medical Cannabis Act), suggested that the amendment would give the house “a second bite of apple.”
Whether or not the house takes the second bite, the fate of Magnolia State’s medical marijuana program will ultimately be decided by the Supreme Court, due to hear arguments on April 14.
Mississippi voters approved Initiative 65 in November, which would later have set up a state medical marijuana program in 2021. Madison Mayor Mary Hawkins Butler challenged the popular initiative with a lawsuit.
Despite voting 74% in favor of the initiative, Butler argued that it was unconstitutional as an equal number of petition signatures came from 5 congressional districts, while Mississippi currently has 4. She claimed the ambiguity in the state’s initiative process created a mathematical impossibility for collecting signatures. However, their main complaint against the new state law has to do with the limited local regulation of medical marijuana facilities set out in the initiative.
Mississippi counties decreased from 5 to 4 for the purposes of the Congressional election after the 2000 census, but state law continues to mandate 5 counties for anything other than those elections. Initiative 65 petitioners also collected signatures from all five districts.
Prosecutors wrote in court files defending the Secretary of State: “Mississippi has four congressional districts under federal decree for congressional elections, but five congressional districts exist under state law and can be used for anything but congressional elections.”
Originally, Senate Bill 2765 was created as an alternative to Initiative 65, but Blackwell now characterizes the bill as a contingency plan for the state medical marijuana program if the Supreme Court rules against the initiative.
Several lawmakers have objected to the law during heated debates that culminated in his death in the House of Representatives. But the Senate had a different plan.
The senators put the language of their medical marijuana law into a law of the house that includes research into cannabidiol (CBD) for patients with seizures and other illnesses. The amended version was passed between 29-19, which essentially restored the Senate’s original proposal.
Opposition to legislature’s medical marijuana bills
Republican MP Joel Bomgar, a staunch supporter and financial supporter of Initiative 65, viewed both bills as treason against the Mississippi electorate.
“This is a no win situation and we are playing with the voters,” said Bomgar. “Ultimately, we have to make it go away.” He added, “People have been talking about it … The Supreme Court will rule in a month. there is no reason for that [bill]… Nobody believes this will lead to anything approaching Initiative 65. “
“I’m not surprised,” said Jessica Rice, executive director of the Mississippi Cannabis Trade Association. “I really wish they had this energy to have a medical marijuana program in the state five years ago or ten years ago, and not just try to get a takeover. I think it’s not a real attempt to create a safety net for Mississippians, but an attempt to regain power. “
The Mississippi people didn’t just speak, they screamed. And their overwhelming approval of government-regulated medical marijuana shouldn’t be usurped by a local politician or the legislature.
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