The Status of Cannabis Legalization in Mississippi
Citizens of Mississippi, the Hospitality State, voted to approve medicinal cannabis by a majority in the November 2020 election. They voted on both medical marijuana amendment Initiative 65 and Initiative 65A, with the latter allowing medicinal legalization for only debilitating medical conditions. A grassroots initiative, Initiative 65 will allow doctors to prescribe medical cannabis for 22 debilitating conditions. If Initiative 65A passed on its own, it would have banned cannabis smoking for medical cannabis patients who were not terminally ill.
Under the passages of both 65 and 65A, the Department of Health in Mississippi will be responsible for developing regulation for the program by July 1, 2021. Medical cannabis cards are set to be issued by August 15, 2021. Mississippi legislators, who have long fought medical cannabis in the state, authored their counter questions, called Alternative 65, which reportedly “does not specify who, if anyone, will be able to receive medical marijuana or when, if ever, a program would be set up,” reports Medical Marijuana 2020.
Up till now, Mississippi has permitted the most minimal medical cannabis program, only permitting low THC-oil for residents who have severe seizure disorders. Mississippi’s very restricted program came about because of Harper Grace, an adolescent who suffered chronic seizures characteristic of epilepsy relieved by CBD oil.
The law titled HB1231 provided legal protection for qualified patients with a debilitating epileptic condition to obtain low-THC (0.5%) cannabis oil legally. However, the oil can only be purchased from the National Center for Natural Products Research at the University of Mississippi and is dispensed by the University of Mississippi Medical Center Department of Pharmacy Services.
According to the local NBC station in Mississippi, “A campaign for medical marijuana is more than just a ballot initiative, it’s another line of hope for some Mississippi families,” which was the case with Ashley Durval and her daughter Harper Grace in 2014. However, the legislation, called the Harper Grace Law, stalled for four years, with Durval saying in 2018, “When we did the bill initially, I never thought it would take as long as it has.”
Now, two years later, Mississippi residents can see relief from medical cannabis. “It was about Harper Grace, and then I got the pleasure of meeting many families who were going through way worse situations than we ever thought of going through,” Durval said in 2018.
Frequently Asked Questions
Mississippi does not have a medical cannabis program. In 2014, the bill known as Harper Grace’s Law was passed, allowing affirmative defense for patients suffering from debilitating seizures for the use of CBD oil (low THC cannabis oil). However, the law limits the use of this oil, which can only be produced at the National Center for Natural Products Research and dispensed by the University of Mississippi Medical Center. Therefore, it is very difficult for patients like Harper Grace to access the CBD oil.
Low-THC cannabis oil (also known as CBD oil) has very low quantities of THC (no more than 0.5% in Mississippi) and does not generate the “high” frequently associated with cannabis. THC is the cannabinoid responsible for cannabis’ intoxicating effects.
Patients with cancer or a disease that causes chronic seizures or muscle spasms sometimes use low-THC cannabis oil for treatment. Mississippi only allow forms of CBD oil that contain very small percentages of THC.