Medical marijuana has been legalized in nearly half of the United States, and a handful of others have enacted very limited bills legalizing the use of cannabidiol (CBD) oil. Voters in Colorado and Washington legalized recreational marijuana in 2012, and two more states and Washington D.C. joined them in approving full marijuana legalization measures in the 2014 election. Now, two separate initiatives in Mississippi are working to join this marijuana law reform movement that seems to be sweeping across the nation.
A bill to legalize medical marijuana through legislative action has been introduced for the 2015 legislative session, and an organization is working to place a full legalization amendment on the 2016 ballot.
The medical marijuana bill, Senate Bill 2318, introduced by Senator Deborah Dawkins, has been assigned to the Public Health and Welfare Committee. Under this bill, patients suffering from cancer, glaucoma, HIV/AIDS, wasting syndrome, severe pain and other debilitating medical conditions would be legally permitted to use marijuana for medicinal purposes if a state-licensed physicians recommends it. While SB 2382 does not establish a system for licensing and regulating any medical marijuana dispensaries, patients would be permitted to cultivate up to 3 mature plants and 4 immature plants at one time.
It has not yet been determined whether this medical marijuana bill will receive a hearing in 2015. Mississippi constituents who want to see the medical marijuana bill receive a hearing can contact the chairperson of the Public Health and Welfare Committee, Dean Kirby, at (601) 359-3234 or email [email protected]
On the other side of the fence, a group called Team Legalize if working to gather signatures to place a full legalization measure on the 2016 ballot. This initiative wants cannabis to be regulated in the same manner as alcohol. The group has referenced the racial disparity in marijuana arrests and potential economic impacts that come with legalization as motivation for the cause outside of the medicinal value for patients. JB Payne, a representative of Team Legalize reported to WREG,
“It [the initiative] encompasses a broad spectrum from social justice to the economy to the medical benefits.”
The recreational marijuana measure legalizes the use of cannabis for adults, and establishes a retail marijuana market. This amendment would increase the sales tax on retail marijuana by 7 percent, all of which would go to the Mississippi public school system.
Team Legalize has just started the signature collection process. They must acquire almost 21,500 signatures from voters in five different districts, and this must be completed by October 2 in order to place the measure on the 2016 ballot.
If SB 2318 is approved in 2015, Mississippi lawmakers would make history as being the first to legalize marijuana legislatively. If the medical marijuana bill is not approved in 2015, the marijuana legalization momentum in the Magnolia State will not end because there is another initiative right behind it.