Mississippi May Get Two Competing Medical Cannabis Systems

As Mississippi awaits a Supreme Court decision on its medical cannabis legalization amendment, state Sen. Kevin Blackwell (R) has proposed a separate bill to legalize the medicinal use of cannabis.

Full story after the jump.

As the Mississippi Supreme Court is preparing to decide the fate of the state’s constitutional amendment to legalize medical cannabis, a state senator has proposed a “Hail Mary” bill aimed at solving the state’s messy medical cannabis situation, Mississippi Today reports.

Some background

Last November, Initiative 65 — Mississippi’s constitutional amendment bid to legalize medical cannabis — was approved with an overwhelming 74 percent of the vote. Mayor Mary Hawkins of Madison, Mississippi, however, filed a lawsuit attempting to block the measure right before the election. The original filing did not stop the vote, but the lawsuit was later updated on grounds that the signatures had been collected improperly. Compounding those issues, the State Department of Health, which did not support I-65, and the Mississippi and American Medical Associations have since signed on to the suit. The Mississippi Supreme Court is set to decide the amendment’s fate in April.

A new option emerges

Now, in a last-minute effort to ensure Mississippi gets a medical cannabis system — and just in case the Supreme Court ultimately overturns I-65 — Mississippi state Sen. Kevin Blackwell has proposed SB 2765, which would legalize medical cannabis, tax products at 10 percent, charge $150 for medical cards, and charge “reasonable” fees to dispensaries and other licensees. Under the proposal, money collected from license fees and taxes would boost education efforts in Mississippi. The bill would also shift regulatory duties for the industry from the Department of Health to the Department of Agriculture.

Some senators are skeptical, however, with Republican Sen. Chris McDaniel questioning the tax on medical cannabis, noting that the state does not issue such a tax on pharmaceuticals. He also raised concerns over “anti-competitive measures” in the bill, according to the report.

SB 2765 failed on deadline day — Thursday, February 11 — but was held over on a “motion to reconsider,” which will let senators take up the bill again in an early Friday morning session, where it ultimately passed on a vote of 30-19, Y’all Politics reports. The bill moves next to the House.

The issue is made yet more complicated, however, because it raises the possibility of having two regulatory schemes emerge, assuming both the bill passes and that the Supreme Court upholds I-65.

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