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Lawmakers reach agreement on medical marijuana bill

Published: Sep. 23, 2021 at 10:18 PM CDT
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JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - There is now an agreement between the House and Senate on moving forward with a medical marijuana program in Mississippi. The more than 100-page bill comes after months of negotiations.

Legislative leaders will now need to send the bill to the Governor. If a special session is called and the bill passes, it would take effect immediately once the Governor signs it into law.

“We’ve done all that we can do to this point and now it goes to the Governor,” explained Rep. Lee Yancey. Yancey is the lead negotiator on the medical marijuana bill in the House. “We wanted it to be a medical program,” said Yancey. “I didn’t want to put a recreational program in place.”

Yancey says his focus remained on helping those with debilitating conditions. There were questions about how people would be able to take medical marijuana.

This latest draft doesn’t prohibit smoking if that’s what’s best for the patient’s condition. It does put a limit on the potency. And they’ll be paying a 7% sales tax on the products and a by-weight excise tax.

“Will contribute to all parts of Mississippi’s economy like all other businesses do,” noted Yancey.

Unlike Initiative 65, there’s a chance for cities and counties to opt out.

“Those cities and counties from the time of passage will have 90 days to opt-out of the program,” described Yancey. “This will be by a vote of their alderman or supervisors. If they choose to opt out, the citizens of that jurisdiction can gather signatures. It would be 20% of the voting-age population or 1,500, whichever is lesser. And they would be able to file a petition to put it on the ballot to opt back in.”

Bailey Martin, Press Secretary for Governor Reeves said, “Staff from the Governor’s office and the legislature met together to discuss it Friday and we are looking forward to engaging further.”

To hear a more detailed breakdown of the drafted legislation, watch the video below.

Shea Dobson started Citizens Alliance of Mississippi.

“I think it’s important that, you know, all of our representatives and senators honor the vote, because it’s clearly what the people want,” explained Dobson. “They want a free market medical marijuana program.”

Citizens Alliance of Mississippi has been asking both citizens and lawmakers to sign a pledge that they’ll support a free market system that includes 1) No licensing caps and 2) No minimum net worth to enter the industry.

“I’m cautiously optimistic,” added Dobson. “I’m not going to necessarily believe it until the vote is done.”

Senators Hillman Frazier and Derrick Simmons say it’s important they get this handled now rather than waiting till the 2022 session.

“In January, we’ll do reapportionment, both congressional level and the state level, and also different COVID money that we have to spend,” explained Sen. Hillman Frazier. “So, it’ll be very beneficial to the taxpayers if we come back and only focus on one bill, medical marijuana.”

“I believe it is critically important to go ahead and address this issue as a standalone issue, because voters voted overwhelmingly last November,” added Senate Minority Leader Derrick Simmons.

“We are looking forward to reviewing the legislature’s work and working together on getting this done,” said Bailey Martin, Press Secretary for Governor Tate Reeves.

Meanwhile, Commissioner Andy Gipson has notified lawmakers that he doesn’t think his agency should be involved at all. He’s sent two letters now about his concerns and says he’s seeking an Attorney General’s opinion.

Under the current proposal, the Department of Agriculture and Commerce would be in charge of licensing and regulating businesses that grow, process or transport the products.

But Gipson doesn’t want his agency to do that as long as marijuana is illegal under federal law.

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