The State of Medical Marijuana in Mississippi
2020 Grade: F
2019-2020 Improvements and Recommendations
Thanks to the hard work of Mississippians for Compassionate Care34 Initiative 65 qualified to appear on the November 2020 ballot, giving Hospitality State voters an opportunity to authorize the creation of a statewide medical cannabis access program.35 Under the initiative individuals with debilitating medical conditions, including chronic pain and pain refractory to appropriate opioid management, could possess up to 2.5 ounces of medical cannabis with a doctor’s certification. This is exciting news for Mississippi patients, who currently have no safe or legal access to medical cannabis, or associated legal protections for possession and use. While the state has considerable work to do to deliver a comprehensive medical access model to patients, Initiative 65 could be the jump-start lawmakers need to build out from the state’s existing limited program.
As Mississippi looks to 2021 ASA encourages state lawmakers to initiate work focused on building a comprehensive medical cannabis program. Such a program should provide legal protections to patients related to employment, housing, education and family law. The system should also authorize an in-state production system for lab-tested medical cannabis and cannabis products that can be made available to patients at legal retailers. ASA also recommends that lawmakers authorize patients to cultivate cannabis at home to reduce costs to patients.
Despite being the home of the National Institute on Drug Abuse’s only facility where cannabis is grown by the federal government, patients in Mississippi still face tremendous access problems. In 2014, Mississippi enacted HB 1231, which creates an affirmative defense for the possession and use of CBD oil solely for patients who suffer from debilitating epilepsy. Known as “Harper Grace’s Law,” the bill only provides legal protections to this extremely limited patient population only if the CBD oil was either obtained from or tested by the National Center for Natural Products Research at the University of Mississippi, and dispensed by the Department of Pharmacy Services at the University of Mississippi Medical Center. The law requires that CBD oil must have at least 15 percent CBD and no more than 0.5 percent THC. In 2017, the legislature passed SB 2610, which clarifies the use of CBD in research for the treatment of seizures. The Hospitality State decriminalized possession of small amounts of cannabis in 1979, penalizing first-offenders of 30 grams or less with a $250 fine rather than imprisonment.
Surveyed patients report that it is unacceptable for medical cannabis other than CBD oil to be illegal in Mississippi. Some surveyed patients report having to patronize the illegal market to obtain medical cannabis, even at the risk of incarceration.