Proponents of medical marijuana angry over Senate bill

Supporters of Initiative 65 upset over Senate bill designed to protect medical marijuana in...
Supporters of Initiative 65 upset over Senate bill designed to protect medical marijuana in case the initiative is ruled unconstitutional by the Mississippi Supreme Court.(wlox)
Updated: Feb. 12, 2021 at 4:31 PM CST
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BILOXI, Miss. (WLOX) - Initiative 65 was voted into the state constitution last year by 74% of the population, but that’s not the end of the story.

State senators said they are worried that a legal challenge in the Mississippi Supreme Court may undo everything. So, the Senate passed the Mississippi Medical Cannabis Act early Friday morning.

“It is a backup in case the supreme court rules the referendum unconstitutional, which a lot of legal scholars certainly think is within the realm of possibility.” said Sen. Brice Wiggins, (R) Pascagoula.

That challenge comes from the city of Madison over procedural rules, and Sen. Scott DeLano said there likely will be more legal issues to come.

“There are going to be a lot of challenges to Initiative 65 and what it does say and what it doesn’t say,” said DeLano. “And then it’s also going to be challenged based on the regulations of the department of health comes forward with.”

Wiggins added this warning.

“If we didn’t have this program, and it doesn’t pass through the Legislature, and if the Supreme Court rules that it’s unconstitutional, you won’t have a program at all.” said Wiggins.

But, supporters of Initiative 65 are not happy.

“It just goes back to trust,” said Ocean Springs Mayor Shea Dobson. “The Legislature could have acted on this, they could have put together a real, compassionate medical marijuana program. They didn’t. The people voted one in. And now they’re scrambling to figure out what to do.”

One of the biggest issues in the Senate bill is the proposed 7% tax on sales, which lawmakers said will be necessary to help fund the mechanisms - with any revenues generated to go to education programs.

“No medicines are taxed in Mississippi at all,” said Diesoul Blankenship with Mississippians for Medical Marijuana. “And the proponents who were against medical marijuana - once their arms were twisted - said, ‘Well, we can do this for medical, but medical only.’ Well, if that’s true, it should be treated as a medicine. This is just a clever way to overturn the will of the people and control something they never wanted in the first place.”

The house will likely take up the bill in the next two weeks.

Through the initiative, The Mississippi State Department of Health will begin issuing treatment center licenses and patient identification cards on Aug. 15.

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