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Medical Marijuana One Step Closer in Mississippi

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Mississippi State Representative Lee Yancey discusses a bill that would create a medical marijuana program in the state, after the House Drug Policy Committee advanced the bill on Wednesday, January 19, 2022, at the State Capitol in Jackson, Miss. (AP Photo/ Emily Wagster Pettus)

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Mississippi comes close to most other states in allowing people to use marijuana for medical conditions.

The State House voted 104 to 14 on Wednesday to pass a bill that would create a medical marijuana program.

The bill passed the Senate 46-5 last week, but the House made some changes. In the coming days, the Senate could accept the changes or request negotiations.

Republican Gov. Tate Reeves said he wants even tighter limits on how much marijuana a patient can buy because he doesn’t want a medical program to turn into a recreational program. But, the bill passed by margins wide enough that lawmakers could override a veto.

When the bill passed the Senate, it stated that a person with a prescription for marijuana could get up to 3.5 grams of the substance per day, up to seven days a week. That’s about 3.5 ounces per month.

On Wednesday, the House reduced that limit to 3.5 grams of the substance per day, up to six days a week. That’s about 3 ounces per month.

“We’re not trying to put more marijuana on the street for smoking,” said Republican Rep. Lee Yancey, chairman of the House Drug Policy Committee.

Yancey said the medical marijuana program would be limited to people with debilitating conditions such as cancer, sickle cell disease, glaucoma or dementia.

The bill clarifies that medical marijuana can only be grown indoors. Democratic Representative Omeria Scott on Wednesday tried to persuade the House to allow outdoor cultivation, saying it would help thousands of farmers.

“This is the biggest cash crop since king cotton,” Scott said.

The House rejected his proposal. Law enforcement officials have raised concerns about growing outdoors, and Yancey said growing plants indoors would allow for better crop quality control.

A wide margin of Mississippi voters in November 2020 approved an initiative to allow medical marijuana, and a program was supposed to be in place by mid-2021.

Six months after the election, the state Supreme Court struck down the initiative, ruling that it was not properly on the ballot because Mississippi’s own initiative process was outdated. The ruling also left Mississippi without a way for people to petition to bring issues to voters.

After the court ruling, legislative leaders appointed a committee to draft a medical marijuana bill.

The bill sets taxes on the production and sale of cannabis and specifies that plants must be grown indoors under controlled conditions.

The House stripped the state Department of Agriculture from any role in administering the medical marijuana program — a request made by Agriculture Commissioner Andy Gipson, a Republican.

The Chamber also expanded the area where medical marijuana production facilities or dispensaries can be located, allowing them in commercial areas. The bill already allowed them in areas zoned for agriculture or industry.

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Follow Emily Wagster Pettus on Twitter: http://twitter.com/EWagsterPettus.