Mississippi lawmakers have been working on legislation to legalize medical cannabis to restore the will of their constituents after the state’s Supreme Court overturned a voter-approved medical cannabis ballot measure in May.
After a summer of negotiations, legislative leaders have reached a deal on a medical cannabis bill, according to a Mississippi Today report, and plan to ask Gov. Tate Reeves to call the Legislature into a special session to consider the proposal.
Reeves has said in the past that he would call a session for a medical cannabis bill as long as he and lawmakers agree on the legislation, the news outlet reported.
House Speaker Philip Gunn said during a Sept. 23 interview on a Supertalk radio show that he believes the House and Senate have the votes to pass the legislation, according to Mississippi Today.
Under the current proposal, cities and counties could opt out of allowing medical cannabis businesses within their jurisdictions, the news outlet reported, but voters could then gather 1,500 signatures or signatures of 20% of voters—whichever is less—to get a referendum on the issue and potentially opt back in. If the referendum ultimately fails, voters could try again in two years. Once a referendum to opt in to the medical cannabis market is approved by voters, a municipality could not ban it again, Mississippi Today reported.
Smokable cannabis would be allowed under the legislation, according to the news outlet, although the proposal sets THC potency limits of 30% on flower and 60% on concentrates and infused products. Warning labels would be required for products containing more than 30% THC, Mississippi Today reported.
The bill prohibits outdoor cannabis cultivation, as well as home cultivation for patients.
The legislation levies a 7% sales tax on medical cannabis, as well as an excise tax of $15 an ounce, Mississippi Today reported.
The Mississippi State Department of Health would oversee the state’s medical cannabis program, according to the news outlet, with the Department of Revenue and Agriculture Commission sharing some of the responsibilities.
Agriculture and Commerce Secretary Andy Gipson has previously said that he does not want medical cannabis regulated under his department, and Mississippi Today reported that he has threatened to sue if lawmakers force him to participate in the program. Rep. Lee Yancey (R-Brandon) told the news outlet that the proposal would allow Gipson to subcontract cannabis cultivation regulations to someone else.
The proposal would give preferential treatment to in-state companies in the business licensing process. Micro growers with less than 2,000 square feet of cultivation space, for example, would have to be 100% owned by a Mississippi resident, Mississippi Today reported, while larger cultivators would have to have 35% Mississippi ownership, although the residency requirement would be repealed after one year.
In addition, medical cannabis businesses would be prohibited from setting up shop within 1,000 feet of a church, childcare facility or school building, according to the Daily Journal.
Bailey Martin, a spokesperson for Reeves, told the Daily Journal that the governor is “looking forward to reviewing the Legislature’s work and working together on getting this done."