Last Friday, the Mississippi state Senate approved a medical cannabis bill, SB 2765, during a 1 a.m. vote. But, doesn’t Mississippi already have a medical cannabis program?
The legitimacy of voter-selected Initiative 65 is being debated in the Mississippi Supreme Court, but medical cannabis advocates are pushing forward with preparing for the rollout of Initiative 65 at the end of this year. So, what’s up with SB 2765?
The bill was originally presented as a bill that could run “parallel” to Initiative 65.
The bill initially restricted the number of cannabis growing licenses to five and required a $200,000 application fee. After several amendments, the bill was passed with lower fees and a provision that said the bill would only go into effect if the Mississippi supreme court rules Initiative 65 to be unconstitutional.
With a new, ever-evolving bill approved by the senate and headed to the house and a lawsuit that could mean the citizen-supported Initiative 65 could fail to launch, it’s easy to wonder what is the future of medical cannabis in Mississippi. It seems the future is in the hands of the legislature and the supreme court.
Supporters of Initiative 65 view SB 2765 as an affront to the will of Mississippians and an effort to control medical cannabis in the state.
“The legislature already tried to give the people a legislator-created alternative to Initiative 65. And the people said that they don’t want it. Why keep trying to force [Mississippians] into something that they’ve already told you they do not want? Like you’re not listening to them at all,” said Jessica Rice, executive director of the Mississippi Cannabis Trade Association.
Here’s some scenarios of what could happen with medical cannabis in Mississippi:
- If SB 2765 makes it to the governor’s desk with the provision of the bill only going into effect in the event Initiative 65 is struck down, then the decision is in the hands of the state supreme court.
- If the supreme court quashes Initiative 65 and SB 2765 is not signed into law, there will be no medical marijuana program in Mississippi.
- However, SB 2765 could become the default program if it’s signed into law and Initiative 65 is struck down.
SB2765 has now been transferred to the house, which will make amendments and vote on the bill. If the house approves the bill, it will go back to the senate committee for final approval before going to the governor’s desk.
Oral arguments for the Initiative 65 lawsuit aren’t until April. Rice said MSCTA said they’re moving forward with their work to connect with people who want to enter the cannabis industry in Mississippi despite the lawsuit. Regardless of what happens, Rice said she’s confident there will be a medical cannabis program in Mississippi within the next two years.