Senate moving full steam ahead with medical marijuana alternative

By Aaron Rice
March 11, 2020

The Senate Constitution Committee passed out a legislative alternative to the medical marijuana ballot initiative Wednesday that cleared the House yesterday.

Earlier today, the motion to reconsider on House Concurrent Resolution 39 was tabled and it was transmitted to the Senate. During a short Senate recess this evening, the Constitution committee met, took up the resolution, and it passed in one minute without discussion.

HCR 39 — sponsored by Rep. Trey Lamar (R-Senatobia) — passed 72-49 Tuesday after several rounds of contentious debate on a largely party-line vote with most Republicans voting yes for the alternative. 

On the floor, Lamar said his bill was about creating a better program that wasn’t an entryway to recreational marijuana.

“If we’re going to have a program, we need to have a proper program,” Lamar said on the floor.

The legislature has had plenty of time to act. Since 2010, there have been 11 bills that either would’ve created or were related to the creation of a medical marijuana program and none made it past the first committee deadline.

Rep. Joel Bomgar (R-Madison) is part of the Medical Marijuana 2020 steering committee and has authored several unsuccessful bills that would’ve created a medical marijuana pilot program. He said on the floor that the legislative alternative was intended to kill the initiative and that sponsors of HCR 39 were being disingenuous about its true purpose.

Initiative 65 would amend the state’s constitution to create a medical marijuana program in Mississippi and more than 220,000 statewide signed the petition to put it on the ballot. For ballot initiatives in Mississippi, the certified signature requirement is 86,185 total with at least 17,237 from each of the five congressional districts as they were in 2000. 

The medical marijuana under Initiative 65 program would be administered by the state Department of Health, whose board opposes the ballot initiative. HCR 39 would create a much less expansive program, with the number of producers strictly limited. The smoking of marijuana would also be limited to those with terminal conditions. 

Initiative 65 would keep the revenues generated by medical marijuana in the program to pay for the state Department of Health to implement and enforce the rules and regulations in the program.

Under Initiative 65, patients with debilitating conditions seeking to be part of the program would be required to get an examination by a physician and then be referred to a licensed and regulated treatment center. At these centers, either the patient or caregiver for a disabled or home-bound patient could buy limited quantities of marijuana or related products.

"The House showed (yesterday) that they couldn’t care less about the people who are suffering from debilitating medical conditions in our state and who could be helped with medical marijuana," Jamie Grantham, Mississippians for Compassionate Care Communications Director. "The battle now shifts to the Senate. We hope that Lt. Governor Delbert Hosemann and the Senate will do the right thing and oppose this alternative amendment to give Mississippians a fair vote on medical marijuana this November.”

The Senate could take the alternative resolution up as early as tomorrow. If the resolution passes the Senate, it will appear on the bottom of the ballot in November alongside Initiative 65 since it doesn’t require a signature from Gov. Tate Reeves.


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