Mississippi’s medical marijuana law: What you need to know

Mississippi voters chose to create a medical marijuana program. Now that the initiative has received the voters’ seal of approval, what happens next?  

The now-approved Initiative 65 outlines the conditions for which marijuana can be prescribed as a treatment, sets possession limits, tax rates and establishes the Mississippi Department of Public Health as the overseer of the program. 

We talked to Jamie Grantham,  communications director for Mississippians for Compassionate Care and Connor Reeves, an attorney with McLaughlin, PC in Jackson, MS who worked on the Initiative 65 campaign. Here’s what you need to know about Initiative 65 and the soon-to-be medical marijuana program in Mississippi.  

Does this mean marijuana has been decriminalized in Mississippi? Can I still get arrested for having marijuana with me? 

Initiative 65 decriminalizes marijuana possession and use for certified medical marijuana patients, not normal folks. If you’re not a medical marijuana patient and don’t have a medical ID card, you could still face arrest, fines or jail time for possessing marijuana in Mississippi. 

How can I become a medical marijuana patient in Mississippi?  

To become a medical marijuana patient, you must become a certified patient. You become certified by getting an in-person exam from a doctor. After determining you have one of the 22 conditions eligible for treatment through medical marijuana (we’ll list those below), your doctor certifies you as a medical marijuana patient and issue a physician’s certificate. From there, take the certification to the Mississippi State Department of Health, which will then issue you a medical marijuana ID card. 

Can I get medical marijuana in Mississippi if I’m not a Mississippi resident? 

Short answer: No.  

Long answer: Initiative 65 does not expressly require patients be Mississippi residents to get a medical card. However, it is a federal crime to transport marijuana across state lines. You could also face state criminal charges for possession if your state does not have a medical marijuana program. 

What conditions are eligible for medical marijuana treatment in Mississippi?  

There are currently 22 conditions eligible for treatment through medical marijuana in Mississippi. Here’s a list:  

  • Cancer 
  • Epilepsy or other seizure conditions 
  • Parkinson’s disease 
  • Huntingdon’s disease 
  • Muscular dystrophy 
  • Multiple sclerosis 
  • Cachexia 
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder 
  • Positive HIV status 
  • AIDS 
  • Chronic or debilitating pain 
  • Amyotrophic lateral 
  • Glaucoma 
  • Dementia 
  • Crohn’s disease 
  • Ulcerative colitis 
  • Sickle-cell anemia 
  • Autism with aggressive or self-injurious behaviors 
  • Pain refractory to opioid management 
  • Spinal cord disease or severe spinal cord injury 
  • Intractable nausea 
  • Severe muscle spasticity  

Will my health insurance pay for my medical marijuana?  

Initiative 65 does not require health insurance companies to pay for medical marijuana. Health insurance companies won’t pay for medical marijuana because it is still a Schedule I controlled substance.   

Do I need a medical ID card to buy medical marijuana? 

Yes. Once you get a letter of certification from your doctor, you will take that to the Mississippi State Department of Health, which will issue you a medical ID card.  

When can I get a medical ID card?  

The Mississippi Department of Health must begin issuing ID cards by August 15, 2021. Initiative 65 states a “reasonable fee” of up to $50 may be charged to issue a card.  

When can I begin using medical marijuana?  

The Mississippi Department of Health must begin issuing ID cards and business licenses for cultivators, processors, testing centers and treatment centers by August 15, 2021. After that, business owners can begin growing and processing cannabis. As soon as the products become available for purchase at state treatment centers, you can begin using it.  

When can I buy medical marijuana? 

Patients are expected to be able to buy cannabis at treatment centers by late 2021 to early 2022.  

Where can I buy medical marijuana?  

Patients can buy medical marijuana products at state treatment centers. You will need your medical marijuana ID to do so. Federal law prevents medical marijuana from being dispensed at retail pharmacies.  

Can I stock up on my medical cannabis? Will there be rules on how much I can be prescribed? 

Yes. Initiative 65 says patients may only be allowed to possess 2.5 ounces of medical marijuana at one time. Patients may only be dispensed 2.5 ounces of medical marijuana ever 2 weeks.  

So, can I smoke medical marijuana in Mississippi?  

Yes, you can. Any and all types of marijuana products can be used under Initiative 65. The measure sets no restrictions on the type of products allowed to be sold or consumed or how a patient consumes it. (Which means, yes, you can smoke marijuana, if that’s what your doctor thinks is best for your condition). 

Can I drive a car while using medical marijuana?

Nope. Just like nonpatients, medical marijuana patients should not drive while under the influence of medical marijuana. Initiative 65 also forbids patients from operating an airplane, train, boat or other motor vehicle while under the influence of medical marijuana. 

Will I get arrested if I have my cannabis with me in a non-medical state? 

Yes. It’s also a federal crime to transport marijuana across state lines. Under Initiative 65, patients may not possess more than 2.5 ounces of marijuana. 

Some medical marijuana states have a reciprocity clause—meaning that state will honor another state’s medical marijuana patient status. Initiative 65 does not include such a clause.  

If I’m a medical marijuana patient in another state, can I buy medical marijuana in Mississippi? 

Initiative 65 says you must have a medical marijuana card issued by the Mississippi State Department of Health to buy products at state treatment centers. So, based on the rules set by Initiative 65, only Mississippi patients can buy medical marijuana in Mississippi. 

Can I still get drug tested at work if I’m a medical marijuana patient?  

Yes. Initiative 65 does not override any drug testing rules set in place by your employer or the government. You’ll have to take that up with your employer.  

If I’m a medical marijuana patient, can I smoke it in public?  

No. Doing so will result in a fine of up to $100. 

When can I apply to be a cultivator? 

Businesses interested in cultivating marijuana can apply for a business license by Aug. 15, 2021.  

When can I apply to be a processor?  

Businesses interested in processing marijuana can apply for a business license by Aug. 15, 2021.  

What regulations apply to growing and processing marijuana for Mississippi’s medical program? 

The Mississippi State Department of Health will create the guidelines for business owners to apply to become a grower, processor or dispensary. Those guidelines will be set by July 2021.  

More information about the nitty gritty on medical marijuana in Mississippi will be available once the Mississippi State Department of Health establishes regulations, which are required to be published by July 2021.

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