Mississippi lawmakers are taking steps to spell out the details of a relatively restrictive medical marijuana system they are proposing as an alternative to a more comprehensive activist-driven version as voters prepare to decide between the two models in November.
After Mississippians for Compassionate Care (MCC) got their measure qualified—submitting about 228,000 signatures—legislators approved a resolution to place a competing and more vague alternative on the ballot. Advocates are concerned that this will create confusion among residents and split votes, compromising their chances of succeeding.
Now, a new resolution is advancing to suspend legislative rules so that lawmakers can introduce a more detailed medical cannabis legalization bill that would be enacted if voters approve lawmakers’ less robust ballot proposal instead of the MCC one. Should the legislature enact the resolution, which was approved by the Senate Rules Committee on Monday, detailed legalization legislation could be filed and receive a vote as soon as next week, insiders say.
The would give voters a better sense of the specifics of the two options they will be choosing from when they go to the polls on Election Day.
The resolution states that the “joint rules of the Senate and the House are hereby suspended for the purpose of requesting the drafting, introduction, consideration and passage, regardless of any deadlines imposed by said rules, of a bill entitled ‘An Act to Establish a Program to Allow the Medical Use of Marijuana Products by Qualified Persons with Debilitating Medical Conditions…'”
Activists say the move is just another bad faith effort on the part of lawmakers, however.
“This is just one more attempt by Mississippi’s politicians to undermine the efforts of 228,000 people in Mississippi who signed petitions to get this medicine to patients who are suffering and deserve the same access that patients in 34 other states have,” Jamie Grantham, communications director for MCC, told Marijuana Moment.
Sen. Dean Kirby (R), who is sponsoring the new resolution, did not respond to multiple requests for comment.
Under the activist-led initiative, patients with debilitating medical issues would be allowed to legally obtain marijuana after getting a doctor’s recommendation. The proposal includes 22 qualifying conditions such as cancer, chronic pain and post-traumatic stress disorder, and patients would be allowed to possess up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana per 14-day period.
The alternative measure approved by the legislature in March contains far fewer details, as it stands. That said, it does include restrictions such as a ban on smokable cannabis products for patients who aren’t terminally ill. It also stipulates that marijuana products must be of “suitable pharmaceutical quality,” without defining what that would entail.
The move to spell out the details of the legislature’s proposed system is the latest step in a months-long conflict between activists and lawmakers. Then-Gov. Phil Bryant (R) expressed opposition to the activist-driven measure and suggested that legislators could pursue alternatives.
It’s not clear what kind of bill the legislature will introduce and potentially approve but, as MCC’s Grantham has previously told Marijuana Moment, the timing of lawmakers’ interest in cannabis reform should not be overlooked. Legislators have always had the opportunity to address patients’ access to marijuana and have neglected to do so until voters forced the issue by qualifying the activist-driven ballot measure. Only since then have lawmakers taken the issue seriously enough to put multiple legalization bills on the table.