States that have both a medical marijuana law and have removed jail time for possessing small amounts of marijuana
Last update: June 12, 2023
Mississippi’s medical cannabis program is now operational!
This year, the Mississippi medical cannabis program became operational. As of May 2023, more than 10,000 patients have registered. Meanwhile, the program has over 175 dispensaries and over 90 cultivators licensed. Also in 2023, a medical cannabis improvement bill, HB 1158, sponsored by Rep. Lee Yancy (R), successfully made it into law. Most notably, it eliminated the Department of Health-imposed requirement that a prospective patient needed to take a drug test to enroll in the program. It also extends medical recommendations from 60 days to 180 days. The legislation also sped up the timeline the Department of Health has to certify patients. These have both been issues for patients and have slowed the implementation of the program. The legislation also allows anyone over the age of 21 to purchase topical products without a recommendation.
Unfortunately, however, several bills that would have strengthened Mississippi’s weak decriminalization law, along with bills to provide for legalization and expungements, died in committee. Attempts to reinstate the ballot initiative process were unsuccessful this year as well.
The road to Mississippi becoming the 37th medical cannabis state!
On February 2, 2022, Gov. Tate Reeves (R) signed into law the Mississippi Medical Cannabis Act (SB 2095), sponsored by Sen. Kevin Blackwell, to restore voters’ will by creating a medical cannabis program.
Both chambers passed the bill by veto-proof margins in one of the largest vote margins in history. A summary of the bill can be found here.
On November 3, 2020, 69% of Mississippi voters cast their ballots in favor of enacting a medical cannabis program. On that same ballot, 74% voted for a broad program — Initiative 65 — while rejecting a far more restrictive alternative lawmakers had placed on the ballot, Initiative 65A. Subsequently, the state Supreme Court found that the state’s signature requirements for ballot measures could not be complied with and threw out not only Initiative 65, but also the entire state’s ballot initiative process.
SB 2095 reflects an attempt to create a middle ground between the extremely restrictive approach some legislators and the governor favor and voters’ strong preference for a broad measure. The Senate passed SB 2095 in a 46-5 vote on January 13, and the House followed suit —105-14 — on January 19, after making a few amendments. The two chambers formed a conference committee to reconcile the bills and signed off on the final versions on January 26.
Mississippi is one of the 31 states that have decriminalized — or, in 23 cases, legalized — personal-use cannabis possession. First offense possession of 30 grams (a little more than an ounce) is punishable by a $250 fine instead of jail time and a civil summons as opposed to arrest, as long as the offender provides proof of identity and a written promise to appear in court. However, Mississippi’s cannabis law has a gaping loophole: possession of paraphernalia — such as the baggie cannabis is in — remains a criminal offense punishable by up to six months.
Meanwhile, data indicates that Mississippi’s cannabis laws are not being evenly enforced. A recent study by the American Civil Liberties Union found that although Black and white individuals use cannabis at nearly identical rates, Black Mississippians are 2.7 times more likely than whites to be arrested for cannabis possession.
Please write your state legislators to ask them to end cannabis prohibition in Mississippi and replace it with a taxed and regulated system, as 23 other states have done.
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