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Proposed legislation would limit medical marijuana to ‘non-combustibles’ only

Sen. Angela Hill.
Sen. Angela Hill.(Mississippi Legislature)
Published: Jan. 3, 2022 at 6:42 PM CST
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JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - While many state lawmakers are grappling with the amount that patients would be allowed under proposed medical marijuana is legalized, one South Mississippi senator wants to prohibit joints altogether.

Sen. Angela Hill is introducing what she says is a legitimate medical marijuana bill that would ban combustible products and make non-combustible products harder to obtain.

“My bill is safer and is more of a true medicinal program,” she said. “It protects children because it requires a pharmacist to be involved.”

The bill would also place restrictions on how much marijuana a patient could receive, as well as require a pharmacist to dole out amounts based on doctors’ recommendations.

“The doctor will enter (the amount) into a system where it can be tracked and kept up with,” she said. “When a patient gets their card, they will be also be registered with the health department. They can go to a specialty pharmacy, and the pharmacist can go under that person’s name and see what kind of dosage is recommended.”

“You are given a dosage by a doctor. If you are not (a) terminal (patient), and you have more than you are allowed, you can lose your license.”

While the kind of weed you smoke would be prohibited, she said patients could still obtain marijuana in other forms, such as liquids, pills, patches, lotions, nebulizers, and suppositories.

Hill, who represents Pearl River County and Marion counties, said she is introducing the bill, in part, based on discussions she’s had with voters.

“When they voted for this, they didn’t realize for people to go in and get a bag of weed,” she said. “They thought they were voting for some kind of medicinal form of marijuana.”

In November 2020, nearly 75 percent of voters in the state approved Initiative 65, which legalized medical marijuana. The measure was challenged and eventually overturned by Mississippi Supreme Court.

Hill said she’s spoken to numerous civic club meetings, where people have approached her about the ballot initiative.

“When they saw medical, they thought it was some kind of medical form of marijuana,” she said. “That’s what I’ve been told all over, at meetings across the state... If you look at medicine, typically something you smoke is not medicine.”

Hill also is introducing the measure after looking into what happened after medical marijuana was legalized in Oklahoma.

Oklahoma voters approved medical cannabis in 2018. Under the law, patients can legally have up to three ounces of weed in public and up to eight ounces at home, Marijuana Moment reported. The law, which is part of the state’s constitution, also spells out requirements for growers and sellers.

“Do a simple Google search of what’s going on in Oklahoma and you’ll find multiple news stories about what’s going on. There are so many licenses regulators can’t keep up with it.”

She also says there are cases of contaminated marijuana being sold, as well as gangs and cartels involved in the sale and production of the product.

According to a November 2021 article in Politico, the Sooner State places no limits on the number of business licenses that can be granted. At the time, more than 9,000 licenses had been issued.

Meanwhile, Politico says law enforcement officials there say the law’s residency requirements for marijuana businesses are easy to skirt, and that some businesses have ties to “international criminal syndicates with roots in China, Mexico - and even Bulgaria.”

We reached out to the Oklahoma Medical Marijuana Authority, the agency that oversees the state’s clinical cannabis program, after hours, but have not gotten a reply.

Hill said her bill would limit licenses for growers and give universities the first right to refusal.

“If universities decide to take it on, they could use that money to do research, supplement operating expenses, supplement tuition,” she said.

Growers would also have to meet other requirements, such as having insurance and operating capital.

“This is not about having access,” she said. “It’s the method and unintended consequences that are my concern. I don’t want people getting sub-standard products and (I don’t want the situation) to get so out of hand that we cannot maintain quality control.”

Rep. Lee Yancey addressed some of Hill’s concerns when he pushed back against Gov. Tate Reeves’ concerns with proposed medical marijuana legislation.

Yancey told WLBT that the bill the legislature would have brought forth during a special session last year and is planning to bring forward again this year would have addressed many of the concerns raised by Hill and Gov. Reeves.

Meanwhile, Yancey, who spoke to us prior to our interview with Hill, says comparisons to Oklahoma’s program and the currently drafted legislation are incorrect, such as provisions to address quality control.

The 2022 Mississippi Legislative Session begins Tuesday at the Mississippi State Capitol.

Courtney Ann Jackson contributed to this story.

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