(January 19, 2022, 9:07 PM EST) -- The Mississippi House of Representatives approved a bill to legalize medical marijuana in a 104-14 vote on Wednesday, sending it back to the Senate and positioning the state to become the 37th to legalize medical cannabis.
S.B. 2095, or the Mississippi Medical Cannabis Act, is sponsored by Republican Sen. Kevin Blackwell in the Senate and Republican Rep. Lee Yancey in the House. The Senate passed the bill in a 46-5 vote on Jan. 13, and the two versions of the legislation will head to conference.
The bill would cap daily sales to patients at 3.5 grams of flower, one gram of concentrate or edibles containing 100 mg of THC.
The House adopted an amendment to the Senate-passed bill which would reduce the Department of Agriculture and Commerce's role in overseeing the new market, and make the state's Department of Health the primary medical marijuana regulator.
The House's amendment also includes a provision to lessen the tax burden on medical marijuana operators by allowing income tax deductions for business expenses.
That benefit is not allowed under Section 280E of the federal tax code, but many states have adopted or proposed legislation decoupling their state tax laws from the federal code for licensed marijuana businesses.
Voters in November 2020 approved Initiative 65, a ballot measure to legalize medical cannabis, but the Mississippi Supreme Court ruled in a 6-3 May decision that the election law governing ballot referendums in the state has been out of date for nearly 20 years.
In response, lawmakers developed a plan to legalize medical marijuana via legislation last September. But Republican Gov. Tate Reeves did not call a special session, postponing action on medical cannabis until the Legislature reconvened this month.
Reeves had expressed concerns with earlier versions of the bill, but said in a recent interview that he was pleased with some of the changes lawmakers had made, including reducing the amount of cannabis patients can purchase and possess.
"With the passage of S.B. 2095, today is an historic day for the patients of Mississippi," said Kevin Caldwell, the Southeast legislative manager for the advocacy organization Marijuana Policy Project, in a statement. "The Mississippi Legislature crafted a compromise bill in the aftermath of the Mississippi Supreme Court invalidating Initiative-65 and the will of the people of the Magnolia State."
The bill's passage in the Mississippi House comes the same day that lawmakers and advocates held a news conference in the South Carolina state capitol to urge the passage of medical marijuana legislation.
The Compassionate Care Act, or S.B. 150, is sponsored by Republican state Sen. Tom Davis, who specifically invoked the Mississippi bill in his remarks Wednesday, saying the chamber could take up the bill as soon as next week.
"Last week the Mississippi Senate voted 46-5 to legalize medical cannabis, bidding to become the 37th state that empowers doctors and patients; meanwhile, here in South Carolina, law enforcement torches farmers' industrial hemp fields," he said. "We're better than this, and I am confident that next week the South Carolina Senate will take the first step toward proving that."
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