The new medical cannabis program in Mississippi opened up to applicants last week, four months after the state’s Republican governor signed the measure into law.
Beginning last Wednesday, qualifying patients in the state may submit applications to obtain a medical cannabis card.
According to local television station WLOX, “licensing for medical cannabis dispensaries only will begin July 1 through the state Department of Revenue.”
Via the state’s Department of Health, the following conditions may qualify a patient for participation in the program: cancer; Parkinson’s disease; Huntington’s disease; muscular dystrophy; glaucoma; spastic quadriplegia; positive status for human immunodeficiency virus (HIV); acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS); hepatitis; amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS); Crohn’s disease; ulcerative colitis; sickle-cell anemia; Alzheimer’s disease; agitation of dementia; post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD); autism; pain refractory to appropriate opioid management; diabetic/peripheral neuropathy; and spinal cord disease or severe injury.
In addition, a patient may qualify if they have “a chronic terminal or debilitating disease or medical condition or its treatment that produces one or more of the following”: cachexia or wasting syndrome; chronic pain; severe or intractable nausea; seizures; and severe and persistent muscle spasms including, but not limited to, those characteristic of multiple sclerosis.
The law is the result of a 2020 ballot initiative that was approved by Mississippi voters, but that vote proved to be only a prelude to what has been a messy road to implementation. Last year, the state’s Supreme Court struck down the ballot initiative, saying it violated the state’s constitution.
That set the stage for Mississippi lawmakers to write their own medical cannabis program.
In late January, after more than a year of disagreements on the finer details of the law, members of the state Senate and House of Representatives finally produced a compromise bill that was sent to the desk of GOP Gov. Tate Reeves.
Throughout the process, Reeves had expressed his preference that purchasing limits for medical cannabis patients be set to 2.7 grams a day. The bill approved by lawmakers in January, however, allows patients to purchase as many as 3.5 grams up to six days a week.
It passed with a veto-proof majority, forcing the hand of Reeves, who signed the bill into law in February.
“The ‘medical marijuana bill’ has consumed an enormous amount of space on the front pages of the legacy media outlets across Mississippi over the last three-plus years,” Reeves said in a statement after signing the measure.
“There is no doubt that there are individuals in our state who could do significantly better if they had access to medically prescribed doses of cannabis. There are also those who really want a recreational marijuana program that could lead to more people smoking and less people working, with all of the societal and family ills that that brings,” he continued.
Reeves added that he had “made it clear that the bill on my desk is not the one that I would have written.”
“But it is a fact that the legislators who wrote the final version of the bill (the 45th or 46th draft) made significant improvements to get us towards accomplishing the ultimate goal,” the governor said.
Reeves did, however, note certain aspects of the bill of which he did approve, including a rule that a “medical professional can only prescribe within the scope of his/her practice,” that the physician must “have to have a relationship with the patient,” and that a prescription requires “an in-person visit by the patient to the medical professional.”
“I thank all of the legislators for their efforts on these improvements and all of their hard work. I am most grateful to all of you: Mississippians who made your voice heard,” Reeves said at the time. “Now, hopefully, we can put this issue behind us and move on to other pressing matters facing our state.”