States that have both a medical marijuana law and have removed jail time for possessing small amounts of marijuana
Mississippi becomes the 37th medical cannabis state!
Last update: February 4, 2022
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, with a House vote of 103-13 and a Senate vote of 46-4-1. This is a historic win for the patients of Mississippi. SB 2095 is legislation Mississippians can be proud of and continue to fine tune in the coming legislative sessions.
Mississippi Supreme Court strikes down medical cannabis law
In November 2020, nearly 70% of Mississippi voters approved allowing medical cannabis. On the same ballot, 74% of voters selected Amendment 65, a broad, citizen-initiated constitutional amendment to legalize medical cannabis, rather than a restrictive alternative put forth by legislators (I-65A).
The mayor of Madison, Mississippi sued the state just days before the 2020 election in an effort to nullify the ballot measure, and in May 2021, the state’s Supreme Court sided with the mayor in a 6-3 ruling that struck down the medical cannabis law enacted by voters. Due to a change in the number of congressional districts in Mississippi in 2000, proponents of the lawsuit claimed that it is “mathematically impossible” to meet the ballot petition signature requirements laid out in the state’s constitution, implying that the measure should never have appeared on the 2020 ballot. The court’s decision effectively eliminates Mississippians’ ability to bring forward ballot initiatives and has implications for other ballot measures unrelated to cannabis policy, including some 2022 campaigns already underway as well as initiatives that have been on the books for years. The state legislature has repeatedly refused to take the action needed to amend the state constitution and update the state’s petition signature requirements.
In response to this news, Matthew Schweich, the deputy director at the Marijuana Policy Project, released the following statement:
“The state’s Supreme Court has issued a deeply flawed ruling to overturn Amendment 65, the medical cannabis law that voters overwhelmingly approved at the November 2020 election. To add insult to injury, this decision not only nullifies the will of hundreds of thousands of voters, it also effectively eliminates Mississippians’ right to bring forward ballot initiatives to amend their state’s constitution. The legislature must take action to fix the ballot initiative requirements and honor the will of their constituents by enacting Amendment 65 into law through the legislative process. Our hearts are broken for the patients in Mississippi who need access to medical cannabis, as well as their families who will continue to watch their loved ones needlessly suffer. We stand with them. The fight for a compassionate medical cannabis law in Mississippi will continue.”
Did you know Mississippi is a “decrim” state?
Mississippi is one of the 31 states that have decriminalized — or, in 18 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 18 other states have done.