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Medical marijuana approved in Mississippi

In one election, the legal prohibition of marijuana in Mississippi was weakened. Voters approved a referendum on Nov. 3 allowing the use of medical marijuana by patients with debilitating health issues. While valid medical marijuana user may not face drug charges, its recreational use is still illegal.

Approved proposal

Under Initiative 65, patients that have incapacitating conditions may legally obtain marijuana after a doctor’s recommendation. Twenty-two qualifying conditions include cancer, chronic pain, and post-traumatic stress disorder. Patents can possess up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana for each 14-day period.

The state department of health must approve regulations for the program by July 1, 2021. Medical cannabis patient cards have to be issued by Aug. 5, 2021.

Difficult road

Mississippi joined 34 other states and the District of Columbia that permit medical marijuana when it approved Initiative 65. Despite a 73.75 percent favorable vote, the initiative faced several hurdles including an alternative proposal and a two-step ballot question approach.

The state legislature placed another more restrictive option, Initiative 65-A, on the ballot which voters had to address. That alternative contained a ban on non-terminally ill patients smoking medical cannabis. It also required that medical marijuana products must be of suitable pharmaceutical quality without defining that standard.

A last-minute legal challenge was also filed against Initiative 65 seeking invalidation by the state Supreme Court because the referendum was unlawfully placed before the voters. However, the Court rescinded an earlier order and ruled that secretary of state did not have to respond to the lawsuit until three days after the election.

In Oct., Gov. Tate Reeves signed legislation amending state law to permit people to obtain marijuana-derived medications approved by the US Food and Drug Administration. He cited his opposition to broader cannabis reforms and was against efforts to make marijuana mainstream.

He also opposed this measure before the election. The American and Mississippi State Medical Associations distributed a sample ballot informing voters on rejecting Initiative 65.

Marijuana possession that does not comply with this new measure is still illegal in Mississippi. Medical marijuana users may also face impaired driving arrests. Anyone investigated or charged with drug offenses should seek immediate legal representation.