Future of Mississippi medical cannabis hazy after bill goes down in flames

The hotly debated and evolving Mississippi SB 2765 failed today as the house of representatives failed to take up the bill before today’s legislative deadline. After the bill was declared dead, a late afternoon amendment to HB 119 – “Harper Grace’s Law” – means SB 2765 could be resurrected from the dead.

Medical cannabis advocates said SB 2765, filed by state Sen. Kevin Blackwell, was a direct attack on Initiative 65–the voter-approved medical cannabis program Mississippians voted on in November.

While the current state of SB 2765 did include language from Initiative 65, medical cannabis advocates said they feared the legislature would amend the bill again after it was passed.

“This amended version currently mirrors the original measure 65, but the general concern is that a legislative version is subject to being altered at will by politicians going forward which is counter to the intent of the original measure. One that 755,591 Mississippians voted into existence,” said Carlisle Carr, who founded a group called Marijuana Advocates Against Corrupt Politicians (abbreviated MAACP).

While Carr says he considers the failure of the bill a “win” for medical cannabis advocates and patients, it served as the only backup plain in the event the Mississippi Supreme Court blocks Initiative 65.

“Yes it’s a win for sure, but it’s a double edged sword in the sense that the amended version was the only “backup” in the event that Mary Hawkins’ opposition to measure 65 were to succeed. So now battle #2 will be fought April in the Supreme Court of Mississippi,” he said.

Wednesday afternoon, Sen. Blackwell amended HB 119 to include language from SB 2765, according to reports. The amended version of the bill passed the house in a 29-19 vote.

Regardless of what happens in the legislature, Initiative 65 still has to face the Mississippi Supreme Court.

The lawsuit against, filed by Mary Hawkins, mayor of Madison, questions the way signatures were obtained during the initiative process. Oral arguments on the lawsuit will be held April 14.

“We are hopeful the supreme court will uphold Initiative 65, especially since we don’t have nay legislative failsafe. I think it’s more likely than not it will be upheld,” said Jessica Rice, executive director of the Mississippi Cannabis Trade Association.

Rice was cautious to call the failure of the bill a “win,” as some of the limiting factors presented in the initial bill (a limit on the number of cannabis cultivators and high fees to apply for a license) could be brought up later.

“Those limiting factors are always going to be there until we have a definite program in place. We are still up in the air on if we will be in operation under 65 or some other medical program. Until we know those things, those threats will always be present,” Rice said.

Click here to read more background on SB 2765. 

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