Throughout the 2021 Legislative session, the Mississippi Senate has tried to pass measures that would codify the operation of a medical marijuana program in the state should the Mississippi Supreme Court strike down Initiative 65, the ballot referendum that received over 70% approval from voters in November 2020.
Initiative 65 was a state constitutional amendment establishing a medical marijuana program in the Magnolia State to be operated by the Mississippi Department of Health. Under the constitutional amendment, all revenues generated by the program would be housed in MSDH to sustain the medical marijuana operation. The Mississippi Senate sought to allow tax revenues to be generated from the program that would fund other state needs while setting up other parameters lawmakers found problematic with the language in Initiative 65, including addressing concerns over local zoning ordinances for dispensaries.
The House repeatedly killed the Senate’s attempts to add language different than what voters approved in November. The Senate’s last ditch effort for the 2021 session was to tack on their medical marijuana language in the from of an amendment to HB 119, known as Harper Grace’s Law, a bill authorizing the use of CBD oil for medical purposes.
This move raised questions of whether the amendment was germane to the original bill.
HB 119 went to conference between the two chambers. The conference report was filed for Harper Grace’s Law late Monday and it did not include the Senate’s amendment which would have added language related to the operation of a medical marijuana program.
Conferees for the Senate were Senators Hop Bryan, Kevin Blackwell and Josh Harkins. On the House side, conferees were Representatives Nick Bain, Jody Steverson and Shane Barnett.
Both chambers are expected to approve the conference report, allowing Harper Grace’s Law to remain in place without the addition of the medical marijuana language sought by the Senate.
The Mississippi Supreme Court set oral arguments in the case brought by Madison Mayor Mary Hawkins Butler questioning the referendum process by which Initiative 65 made it on the ballot for April 14.