What Did The Passing Of Initiative 65 Do For Mississippi In This Past November, 2020 Election?
Like every other state, the use of marijuana in any form was against Mississippi State law. Over the last several years, as many as 34 states have passed some form of marijuana in an acceptable form; some states have looked at medical marijuana, others have looked at recreational marijuana.
For Mississippi, Initiative 65 was brought about as a result of the legislature refusing to act on bills which were introduced that would have made it legal in Mississippi to use medical marijuana. Since the legislature did not take any of them up, some people took on the burden of gathering the required number of signatures and put Initiative 65 on the ballot.
Initiative 65 provides for legalization of medical marijuana in a manner that differs from every other state in the country. Specifically, it puts the language of the use of medical marijuana in the Mississippi Constitution instead of in the MS Code. This has a number of effects. First, the constitutionality of it is confirmed, because it’s in the Constitution. Second, the general parameters are set out in the Constitution. Third, it directs the State Department of Health to promulgate the rules and regulations by which medical marijuana will be grown, distributed, tested, and sold in Mississippi. It even sets up the tax rate in the constitution. Therefore any changes made to the medical marijuana law would have to be through a constitutional amendment.
This is a tremendous opportunity for both adults and children to obtain treatment for illnesses and diseases for which medical marijuana is a known remedy. It is also a great opportunity for entrepreneurialism in Mississippi, in that it gives people a chance to get involved in growing, distributing, testing, or transporting medical marijuana. I believe it will have a very positive effect on Mississippi, in terms of it being a newly available medical treatment, and a way to boost the economy in Mississippi.
Who Will Establish And Monitor The Regulations For Medical Marijuana Businesses In Mississippi?
The agency responsible for adopting of monitoring the regulations for medical marijuana in Mississippi is the State Department of Health. The Initiative, which is a constitutional amendment, sets out the deadlines by which the State Department of Health must act. They must have regulations in place by July 1, 2021, and they must be in a position to issue licenses by August 15, 2021. The State Department of Health will be charged with the responsibility of establishing and monitoring the regulations for medical marijuana in Mississippi.
What Could Those Regulations Look Like And When Will They Be Set?
Since medical marijuana is new to Mississippi, there are no recognized agencies which have expertise in dealing with these regulations. I am sure that the State Department of Health will look to see what has been done in other states where medical marijuana has been approved. It is also common for agencies to look at what’s been done in states that have demographic similarities to Mississippi. In all likelihood, they will take the particular regulations from those states and match them to Mississippi in a way that follows the dictates of the constitutional amendment through Initiative 65, and makes sense in the objective for the distribution of medical marijuana in Mississippi.
Between now and July 1, 2021, a number of people who were actively involved in the passage of Initiative 65 will meet with and give recommendations to the State Department of Health with regard to crafting those rules and regulations in a manner that allows for the best enforcement, delivery, and distribution of medical marijuana in a regulatory manner. It would be my suggestion for the State Department of Health to learn from the industry.
I will use gaming in Mississippi as an analogy. Over 20 years ago, gaming was adopted in Mississippi. The people who were opposed to it and the people who were for it put their swords down, so to speak, and worked together to help write the rules and regulations in a way that would prevent scandals and present a fair field of competition for the industry. In Mississippi, there have been virtually no scandals in gaming for over 20 years, which I believe is a testament to how well the parties can work together to ensure that the medical marijuana industry grows and emerges as a well-governed, productive industry in Mississippi, and which meets the goals and objectives of Initiative 65.
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