Mississippi lawmakers last week approved a bill mandating changes to the state’s Medical Cannabis Act, the bill to legalize medical marijuana that was passed by the legislature last year. The measure, House Bill 1158, now heads to the desk of Republican Governor Tate Reeves for his consideration.
Republican Senator Kevin Blackwell, a Republican and one of the bill’s authors, said that the legislation clarifies provisions of Mississippi’s medical marijuana law, which was passed by state lawmakers in 2022.
“Unfortunately the Department of Health in their rules and regs probably accepted some things that were not intentioned by the bill,” Blackwell said on the Senate floor on March 8. “So we are trying to correct those … and we do so in the bill.”
The primary author of the legislation, Republican Representative Lee Yancey, gave an example of a rule enacted by state regulators that would be rolled back by House Bill 158 if the governor signs the legislation.
“The Board of Medical Licensure began implementing additional requirements for doctors to be able to certify people, so… and that was not in the bill. So, it was not our intention for there to be any additional requirement,” said Yancey, who noted that the bill is designed to help Mississippi’s medical marijuana program operate more smoothly. “So, they have to do those eight hours the first year, and then there’s five hours of continuing education every year after that. We felt like that was sufficient just to keep them apprised of what the new research was showing.”
In an attempt to prevent similar discrepancies between state laws and regulations passed by state agencies in the future, the measure also includes language designed to prevent regulators from passing rules that do not comply with the state’s medical marijuana statute.
“No state agency, political subdivision or board shall implement any rule, regulation, policy, or requirement that is contrary to the provisions of the Mississippi Medical Cannabis Act,” reads the text of the bill.
Bill Makes Several Changes To Mississippi Medical Cannabis Act
House Bill 1158 also makes investigations by state agencies, including citations issued by the Department of Health, confidential until an investigation into the matter has been completed. An earlier version of the bill kept such records out of public view indefinitely, but some senators argued that keeping such material off the public record for any length of time is not acceptable.
“I think if it was put out in transparency, it would dispel any of the back and forth on social media,” said Republican Senator Angela Burks Hill, one of five senators who voted against the bill. “I think hiding that is only going to fuel that speculation.”
The bill also makes the physical address of all medical marijuana companies except dispensaries confidential. During public hearings on the legislation, Yancey said the provision was designed to protect the security of cannabis operators, who often must keep large quantities of product and cash onsite.
House Bill 1158 also requires the Mississippi Department of Health to approve a patient’s application to use medical marijuana within 10 days, a reduction from the current requirement of 30 days. The change was enacted to help address a backlog in processing applications by the agency.
Other changes include allowing patients to conduct follow-up visits with a doctor other than the one who first approved the medical marijuana recommendation without experiencing a lapse in certification or access to medicinal cannabis. Additionally, medical professionals who have approved a patient to use medical marijuana are now permitted to assist them with filling out the required state application for a medical marijuana identification card.
Another provision of the legislation allows dispensaries to sell topical medical cannabis products that can not be ingested to adults 21 and older without a medical marijuana identification card. The bill also allows licensed medical marijuana dispensaries to sell hemp-derived products that are legal under federal law, including low-THC CBD formulations. The bill also specifies that hemp products are not subject to control by the state’s Medical Cannabis Act.
The bill also permits the Department of Health to contract with private laboratories to conduct compliance testing of medical marijuana products. Such labs, however, are not permitted to conduct commercial analyses for licensed medical marijuana businesses. Under the legislation, labs conducting testing for licensed medical marijuana businesses are permitted to become licensed cannabis transporters or to contract the services of an independent licensed transporter.
The legislation also allows licensed medical marijuana businesses to use marijuana imagery in company logos and other branding. Photographs of medical marijuana products for sale may be posted online by dispensaries.
House Bill 1158 received final approval from the Mississippi legislature on March 14. The bill now awaits action from the governor.
A.J. Herrington is a San Diego-based freelance writer covering cannabis news, business, and culture.