Mississippi lawmakers work toward medical marijuana program

·3 min read

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — Two Mississippi lawmakers say they're continuing to work on proposals to create a medical marijuana program, two months after the state Supreme Court invalidated one that voters had approved.

The Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal reported that Republican Sen. Kevin Blackwell of Southaven and Republican Rep. Lee Yancey of Brandon are the lead negotiators.

Yancey said a House bill would be similar to Initiative 65, which voters approved in November to allow medical marijuana use by people with some debilitating conditions. Initiative 65 was overturned by the state Supreme Court in May when justices ruled that Mississippi's initiative process is outdated and the medical marijuana measure was not properly on the ballot.

“We’ll allow the free market to determine which businesses succeed and what businesses fail,” Yancey said. “We’re giving everybody a fighting chance. We’re also trying to make sure that only the people who are suffering with debilitating medical conditions are the ones who get the benefits.”

The Senate Public Health Committee held a hearing about medical marijuana Wednesday. Blackwell said afterward that his draft is similar to a bill the Senate proposed during the regular legislative session earlier this year.

“I hope to have a special session by mid-August,” Blackwell said. “But, you know, I don’t call that.”

Only a governor can call legislators into special session, and the governor decides which issues they may consider. Republican Gov. Tate Reeves has said he will not call a special session about medical marijuana until lawmakers agree on details of a proposed bill that he can accept.

Yancey said he hopes to have a draft of a bill ready to share with House leaders next week. After that, he intends to meet with Blackwell to resolve differences between the Senate and House versions.

When Reeves was in Tupelo last week, he said he and his staff are talking with lawmakers about a medical marijuana program, including the possibility of taxation and whether the state should limit the content of THC, the chemical in marijuana that produces a high.

During the Senate committee hearing Wednesday, Dr. Lynn Parry, a member of the American Medical Association task force on cannabis, advised lawmakers to set limits on THC.

“If you’re going to treat this as a medical product, then treat it as a medical product,” Parry said. “And follow all of the guidelines and rules that we follow in medicine, which is you keep records, document what you see, make a diagnosis and prescribe a treatment for the diagnosis.”

Another theme at the hearing was that if Mississippi creates a medical marijuana program, some people might push lawmakers to then allow other use of marijuana by adults.

“I don’t want to be disingenuous to the public,” Republican Sen. Brice Wiggins of Pascagoula told the Daily Journal. “If people will listen to what these hearings have said, pretty much every one of them have said that with any medical program, you’re going to go to recreational.”

The Associated Press

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