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Mississippi medical cannabis program heads to general assembly

DESOTO COUNTY, Miss. (WMC) – Mississippi state lawmakers head to Jackson for the 2022 general assembly.

One hot topic piece of legislation is the state medical cannabis program, which was agreed upon by both Republicans and Democrats in late September.

The hope was a special session would be called to go ahead and sign the bill into law, but Governor Tate Reeves’s concerns about the bill prevented one from being called.

After months of protesting, some outside the governor’s mansion, the bill now faces the general assembly.

Pro-cannabis lawmakers and advocates have concerns about amendments being tacked onto it.

“We want our bill passed,” said Zack Wilson, vice president of the We are the 74. “We want it passed quickly. If people want to amend the bill, do that later on, but get us something in stone first.”

Reeves went to Facebook just before this past weekend, stating “11 joints a day, every day, for everyone with a MJ card is too much! And I believe the potential of 100,000,000 joints PER MONTH on the streets is more of a recreational program.”

Wilson, standing for the 74 percent of Mississippians who voted for a program in 2020, said Reeves’ math is off.

“Eleven joints out of 3.5 grams is completely inaccurate,” Wilson said. “I challenge anyone to call any of the thousands of dispensaries around the states and see if they can find just one that sells a .3-gram cannabis cigarette.”

Upon further review, it appears both are right in their own regard.

There are surveys that show .33g an average for marijuana usage in one joint, whereas a 2011 NIH study (Table 1) shows double that .66g was the average usage per joint among marijuana users.

Aside from the weight, there are also caps to the levels of Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) in the marijuana plant, which greatly affects the ability to treat those who are seriously ill with the dose they’re given.

“They’ve already cut our THC down to 60 percent (for cannabis concentrate) and 30 percent, respectively, on flower,” Wilson said. “That’s a huge gut punch for patients that need stronger medicine for epileptic seizures, and you’re going to force them to take more unneeded doses from carrier products, instead of allowing the medicine to be pure as it is.”

Reeves stated in the referenced Facebook post that an idea would be to “allow a pharmacist or a doctor to make an exception and provide marijuana in higher quantities if necessary on a patient by patient basis.”

However, that isn’t in the current legislation.

To go further, Wilson compares programs with a neighboring Mid-South state to dispute Reeves’ “100,000,000 per month” statement.

“Arkansas has had a program since 2016, and they have 79,000 patients,” Wilson said.Tate keeps saying that Mississippi will have 300,000 qualifying patients overnight. It’s just not true.”

The Arkansas Department of Health validates the numbers of patients Wilson references.

Wilson heads to Jackson Monday, where he and his group are set to meet with over a dozen senators and a substantial group of representatives, he says, to answer any questions legislators may have going into the general assembly.

The Mississippi General Assembly begins Tuesday.

Wilson says even if a program is passed on day one, due to licensing requirements and growing, it would still take seven months before the program can begin.

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