A Senate bill that would create a medical marijuana program in the state and passed the House on Wednesday has an 18-wheeler sized loophole.
Scrolling down the text of Senate Bill 2095 known as the Mississippi Medical Marijuana Act, a reader arrives at line 1,361. This provision covers the eligibility of state lawmakers and their family members to become dispensary owners. The bill bans them from taking part in the business until December 31, 2022.
This means the restriction expires at year’s end, allowing lawmakers (who’ll have the power to write laws governing the medical marijuana industry) and their families to be participants in what will be a heavily regulated industry.
State Rep. Dan Eubanks (R-Walls) told the Northside Sun since the program would take at least 180 days to start, there essentially would be no ban on lawmakers or their families participating.
Eubanks tried to plug the loophole with an amendment that was defeated on a 68-41 roll call vote. His amendment would’ve stretched that deadline out to 2025.
SB 2095 was authored by state Sen. Kevin Blackwell, R-Southaven.
He said he voted for the bill on final passage because he said the will of the people was to create a program, as evidenced by Initiative 65, which was passed in 2020 and overturned by the state Supreme Court when it threw out the state's ballot initiative law. The bill goes back to the Senate and if the other chamber agrees with the alterations, it’ll head to Gov. Tate Reeves’ desk to be signed into law.
“We’re going to have lots of course corrections with this bill until the cows come home because this bill will have all sorts of unintended consequences,” Eubanks said. “My amendment was to try to add some transparency to this bill.”
The second-term Republican also said that dispensary-owning lawmakers (or those with spouses participating in the industry) would be co-opted since they’d be participants in the industry they created and will regulate.
Eubanks said that a vote was rushed on the bill and that most representatives didn’t expect to vote on the 445-page bill. The House Drug Policy Committee amended the bill to change the responsible agency for the program from the Mississippi Department of Agriculture and Commerce to the Department of Health.
The amendment also reduced the amount of cannabis that a medical marijuana card holder could receive from seven doses to six per week or a total of 21 grams of cannabis flower (the psychoactive part of the plant).
The bill requires that the owner of a dispensary have established residence in the state for three years. Eubanks said that out-of-state growers from Oklahoma and Arkansas will partner with local residents to open dispensaries, giving them an advantage over local industry participants.