This week, Mississippi held a meeting to talk about legalizing cannabis, and heard testimony from folks in other states who vouched for legalization. The testimony was brought before the Mississippi Senate Public Health and Welfare Committee. This is the second time they’ve met after the ruling back in May that voter-approved cannabis was void due to the initiative process.
Additionally, some of the testimony came from two physicians in the state who urged that “guardrails”would be necessary if medical cannabis becomes a legal reality. They were concerned about products being available that have not been tested by the FDA, and products being available to children.
On the other side of the spectrum, a cannabis advocate talked about Mississippi children who had seizures and wanted access to legal cannabis. These children, like many others in the country, have tried FDA-approved medicines with no good success.
Meanwhile, a patient advocate told the stories of three Mississippi children who experience seizures and want to be able to access medical marijuana as a treatment. The advocate said they have tried FDA-approved pharmaceutical drugs, and none have helped.
“I will tell you that if you move forward with legislation, make sure that you protect agriculture and rural land from foreign investment, because they will come to your state, trash your rural areas with large outdoor grows,” said Utah Senator Evan Vickers. The program in his state uses cannabis pharmacies, and dispensaries are not allowed.
Some Mississippi lawmakers have been backing legal cannabis this whole time, claiming they want to see the will of the voters supported and honored. However, because the vote was overruled, they will need to get the approval of Governor Tate Reeves, a Republican. While he is OK with a special session taking place to investigate legal cannabis, he has stated that he doesn’t want it to go on for too long.
The lawmakers gathered Monday did not discuss in detail what a medical marijuana program could look like in Mississippi, or whether they believe a medical marijuana program should exist in the state.
Mississippi Gets Medical
Amy Smoot, a patient advocate from DeSoto County, told the stories of three families who want to access medical marijuana to ease their children’s suffering. She said one 9-year-old girl’s family finally went to Colorado in 2017, when no prescription drugs were working. After starting on THC oil, she has not had a seizure in three years.
“I’m asking that you give these children a chance,” said Amy Smooth, a Mississippi cannabis patient, who talked about families who need access to cannabis to help their children. She talked about parents who moved to Colorado, and now their child is seizure-free.
Cannabis advocates in the state are still upset about Initiative 65, which should have been a legalized state amendment. If it passed, the Health Department would have created a program to get cannabis to folks with debilitating medical conditions like cancer, epilepsy and sickle cell anemia.
Still, some in the state are concerned about what could happen if legal cannabis comes to Mississippi. Dr. Jennifer Bryant, chair of the Mississippi State Medical Association Board of Trustees, said that medical cannabis is concerning because she doesn’t see it as medication, but as a substance that still needs to be studied. She claimed that referring to cannabis as medication is “an attempt to make it more benign than it really is.”
“We’re trying to keep guardrails on the program, but it’s a slippery slope,” she added.
It’s clear that there is not yet a consensus on medical cannabis, but if legal cannabis comes to the state, there will be a lot of regulations put in place.
Addison Herron-Wheeler is co-publisher and owner of OUT FRONT Magazine, and web editor of New Noise Magazine. She covers cannabis and heavy metal, and is author of Wicked Woman: Women in Metal from the 1960s to Now and Respirator, a collection of short stories.