Mississippi has become the 37th U.S. state to legalize medical cannabis. Governor Tate Reeves (Republican) signed yesterday, February 2, Mississippi medical cannabis bill into law.

The Mississippi State Legislature approved Senate Bill 2095 on January 26, 2022. The bill was passed in the Senate by a vote of 46-6 and in the House by 104-13.

The Mississippi Department of Health is expected to oversee the medical cannabis program and establish an advisory committee to recommend several issues, including patient access and industry safety.

Patients can obtain written certification by licensed healthcare professionals who have a bona fide relationship. However, they will have to require certification in an in-person office. The legislation also allows healthcare professionals to prescribe cannabis for any pain state in which the cause of the pain cannot be removed or otherwise treated, and no relief or cure of the cause of the pain is possible. Only a physician can prescribe for young adults between 18 and 25 years old, and parental consent is also required for minors.

Mississippi's medical cannabis program allows patients to obtain up to 3.5 grams of cannabis per day, but no more than 3 ounces (85 grams) of cannabis per month.

Patients can qualify for medical cannabis if they've been diagnosed chronic conditions, including cancer, Parkinson's, muscular dystrophy, glaucoma, HIV, Crohn's, ulcerative colitis, neuropathy, post-traumatic stress disorder, and severe injury. However, other conditions can be added later by regulators via petition.

Patients' registration cards would cost $25, although some people can qualify for a lower price.

Growing cannabis at home will remain prohibited under the new law. Medical cannabis products will be limited to contain a THC level below 30% for cannabis flowers and 60% for concentrates.

Taxation of wholesale rate has been set at 5%, and retail products will also be subject to state sales tax. It will still be a crime for patients to drive under the influence. The new law becomes effective immediately.

According to the bill, the state Department of Health starts accepting applications, registering, and licensing ID cards and healthcare professionals by 120 days. After this period, the department must issue licenses and register cannabis cultivation facilities, processing facilities, testing facilities, research facilities, disposal, and transport operations.

Dispensaries are expected to be licensed in about six months. Therefore, Mississippi's medical cannabis program could effectively start by the end of the year.

Mississippi voters approved a ballot measure to establish a medical cannabis program through Initiative 65 in November 2020. However, it was later invalidated when the state Supreme Court struck down its entire ballot initiative process.

Governor Reeves signed the bill into law amid concern. In a post published on his official Facebook page, Reeves underlined that he signed the bill to support the will of voters. "My goal from Day 1 (post Supreme Court ruling) has been to allow for the former and do everything in my power to minimize and mitigate - though knowing it is impossible to eliminate - the likelihood of the latter. After all, the overwhelming majority voted for a medical marijuana program in the 2019 election and I committed to supporting the will of the people," he wrote.

However, for many social media users, he sounded reluctant to the idea of a medical cannabis program in Mississippi. "I have made it clear that the bill on my desk is not the one that I would have written," he wrote, adding that he is concerned that the recreational cannabis program could lead to increased recreational cannabis use "and less people working."

NORML's State Policies Manager Jax James said cannabis access is long overdue for Mississippi's patients. "We remain concerned that lawmakers saw fit to add unnecessary taxes on cannabis products, that patients are prohibited from home-cultivating limited amounts of cannabis for their personal use, and that those with chronic pain are restricted from accessing cannabis products until first using more dangerous and addictive substances like opioids," she said in a press release.

Cannabis in Mississippi remains still illegal for recreational use. However, the state decriminalized the possession of small quantities of cannabis in 1978.